Callers sound off on election ballot scanner debacle
LEE COUNTY, Fla. - Lee county is one of a number of Florida counties drawing national attention because of voting problems.
And the elections supervisor admits the problems at the polls lead to lower voter turnout, with fewer people casting ballots than in 2008.
But she also says those problems weren't foreseeable.
"Accusations of deliberately suppressing voter turnout or sabotaging this election could not be farther from the truth, " says the Lee Elections Supervisor Sharon Harrington.
She's on the defensive after some strong charges from frustrated voters.
"I don't believe I'm going to resign. I don't believe we did anything that as was intentional," she tells reporters at a press conference Wednesday.
But long lines did push some frustrated voters to give up and go home while other toughed it out until early this morning.
"We've had a problem this year because we had something that was totally unusual and that was that 4-page ballot," she points out.
And that, says Harrington, caused a bottleneck at the optical scanners that voters fed their ballots into after they've voted.
"We felt that the same number of scanners that we used in each precinct during the 2008 election would be adequate. But we were unprepared for what the reality ended up being at the polls," she explains.
Movers returned the county's scanners to the warehouse today. One hundred and sixty seven were sent out to 125 precincts. Precincts with more than 3,500 voters got two, while those with fewer got just one, with 15 on standby in case any broke.
"When the lines started to build we began to dispatch some of these units that we had set aside for replacements," adds Harrington.
The elections supervisor says she sent out an additional 5 scanners to relieve log jams, and ended up replacing 5 broken scanners, leaving only 5 in case of emergencies.
"It would have been nice to send additional scanners to precincts but we didn't have additional stock." says Harrington.
But we discovered the elections office could have purchased an additional 360 scanners with the nearly $2 million the supervisor returned from her 2012 budget.
All the problems at the polls moving the elections supervisor to make a heart-felt apology:
"I want to close by apologizing to the voters of Lee County... to those who waited in long lines during 8 days of early voting... to those who waited in long lines at their precincts... and those who got discouraged and left without voting. Moving forward, I will do whatever it takes to make sure this doesn't not happen again in Lee county."
Harrington says she will work with county commissioners to buy more scanners and also pressure state law makers to extend the number of early voting days.