This story was written by Amy Mariani, The Oracle
Almost a week after a seeming discrepancy between the total number of ballots cast at the University of South Florida Marshall Student Center and the number of votes cast for president was discovered, the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Office has yet to answer questions about the difference.
Initial polling results Tuesday indicated that more than 700 out of about 1,400 ballots cast did not select a presidential candidate, a situation described as an anomaly by a political analyst familiar with polling. A poll worker said the deficit meant that about half of the students didnt vote in the presidential race, not that it was a technical issue.
Supervisor of Elections Buddy Johnson said early Wednesday morning that he was not familiar with the situation, but would make sure every vote counted.
Though a Barack Obama campaign lawyer said the gap is possibly due to the ballot-scanning machines method of counting votes, Johnsons office wont give an explanation.
On Wednesday afternoon, Johnson said he hadnt addressed the issue at USF or looked at the numbers of the precinct because he is dealing with an even greater issue: rescanning about 60 percent of early voting ballots in Hillsborough.
Weve been working on the entire upload situation, he told the Oracle. We havent been able to address that question of yours yet.
Johnson said his staff is waiting for Premier Election Solutions, the company that provided the machines, to fix the countywide problem. Until he gets the go-ahead from the company, theres nothing he can do.
Were still waiting for them to give us the protocol on how to handle this, he said Wednesday.
Then, on Wednesday evening, Johnson refused to answer questions and hung up on the reporter. He wouldnt return phone calls made Thursday or Friday, either. Office Chief of Staff Kathy Harris said Friday that she was too busy taking care of uncounted ballots to answer questions.
Though Johnsons office has not provided any explanation, Obama campaign lawyer Sharon Samek said the difference might have to do with how the voting machines count ballots.
The ballots consisted of two pages, Samek said, so the scanning machines might have counted each page as its own ballotmaking it appear that twice as many people voted. This would make it look like only half of those who voted cast their vote in the presidential race, as reported Wednesday.