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Sharon Harrington regroups, plans election changes

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Sharon Harrington regroups, plans election changes

By Matt Grant. CREATED Nov 13, 2012

FORT MYERS - Lee County's election supervisor is on the defensive a week after the Election Day fiasco in Lee County.

"It wasn't just Lee County," said Election Supervisor Sharon Harrington. "It was all over the state of Florida."

A week after Election night, Harrington is overseeing a recount in a Lehigh Acres fire commission race.

"It's going to be a late night," said Harrington.

But it's been an even longer week. Since Tuesday, she's received at least 100 emails calling for her resignation, though she says the emails have "tapered off."

"[Were the comments] pretty nasty?," asked Fox 4 reporter Matt Grant.

"Some of them were, yes," said Harrington. 

 Harrington has admitted she underestimated how many optical scanners were needed as voters waited upwards of five hours to cast a ballot.

"Do you think the long lines deterred some people from voting?," asked Grant.

"Oh, I'm sure it did," said Harrington.

Harrington wants the governor and legislature to look into extending early voting, though she's not sure it would have made a difference in this election.

Last year, state lawmakers reduced early voting from two weeks to eight days.

Since the election, one website popped up called "Recall Sharon Harrington." Despite protests, Harrington says she's not budging.

"We've held very successful elections up until this time. I think I've proved we can handle elections that we don't have an inept department," said Harrington. "I don't think anybody is perfect. I'm certainly not perfect. But I am not going to be stepping down, no."

When asked if the long lines caught her off guard, Harrington responded: "Of course it did."

By law, early voting can only be held in certain locations. That meant there were only five spots in Lee County where people could vote early. Harrington wants the state to let her have more places that can hold more people.

"We definitely need more flexibility," said Harrington, "so we can go into other venues."

For the next election,s he wants to buy more optical scanners and is looking into an electronic check-in system, instead of the current paper one, which could speed up the lines.

"Will you be asking the county commissioners for more money?," asked Grant.

"That's possible," said Harrington. "If we can't get any [money] from the state then the county commissioners would have to pay for it."

Harrington says she is also looking into leasing machines for presidential races, where turnout is higher.

On Tuesday, the League of Women Voters, the ACLU and the NAACP called for the state to set up a task force to evaluate what went wrong at the polls Election night and fix it.

"Any voters who feel disenfranchised what would you say to them?," asked Grant.

"I think I've already apologized," said Harrington. "A number of times."

Someone who hasn't apologized is Gov. Rick Scott. Even though voting delays in Lee and other counties meant the presidential race wasn't decided in Florida until four days after Election Day, Scott says "the right thing happened" on Election Day.

Matt Grant
mgrant@fox4now.com