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Tarpon faces recount after missing ballots found

Officials find six absentee ballots from the city's election. The recount won't affect the outcome.

By KATHERINE GAZELLA

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 23, 2001


Officials find six absentee ballots from the city's election. The recount won't affect the outcome.

TARPON SPRINGS -- A few months after Florida's highly publicized recount in the presidential election, Tarpon Springs will have its own less-dramatic recount this morning. A worker in the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections office found six uncounted absentee ballots Wednesday afternoon, so the city's canvassing board will meet at 10 a.m. today to count those ballots.

City officials were quick to point out that the outcome of the mayoral and commission races will not change. Mayor Frank DiDonato, Commissioner Beverley Billiris and candidate Karen Brayboy all won their races by large margins, City Clerk Kathy Alesafis said.

"We do not feel the integrity of the election was compromised," Alesafis said. "Since it was not a close election, the outcome will not be affected."

None of the candidates have protested the results or the uncounted ballots, she said.

Including the additional six ballots, the city received 373 absentee ballots. In the original tally, DiDonato had 174 of the absentee votes and challenger Costa Vatikiotis received 190. DiDonato defeated Vatikiotis, 3,007 to 1,710.

In the other races, Billiris received 215 absentee votes to challenger Joseph Pis-ani's 144. Brayboy received 253 absentee votes, while challenger Spanos Harding received 107. Billiris and Brayboy both won with about 68 percent of the vote.

The ballots were discovered Wednesday afternoon after election workers updated the voting history of absentee voters, Pinellas County Elections Supervisor Deborah Clark said. They noticed the number of voters did not match the number of absentee ballots the city had received and turned over to the Supervisor of Elections on election night.

Employees then looked in a metal transfer case, which was used to transport the ballots from Tarpon Springs City Hall to the elections office Tuesday night. Six ballots were found under the lip of the case, Clark said.

She said part of the confusion stemmed from Tarpon Springs useing different recording information than the county uses for documenting absentee ballots. The city lists the number of ballots received, which does not include rejected ballots, while the county lists the total number received, she said.

Tarpon Springs is the only municipality in Pinellas County that receives absentee ballots at its City Hall, Clark said. All other absentee ballots go directly to the county elections office.

-- Staff writer Katherine Gazella can be reached at (727) 445-4182 or gazella@sptimes.com.

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