Computer glitch in Tallahassee could delay distribution of some absentee ballots

By Marc Caputo, Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau
Wednesday, October 13, 2010

TALLAHASSEE — If you changed your mailing address recently and just requested an absentee ballot, there’s a small chance you might not get it quickly because of a glitch in the state’s voter database.

The problem cropped up Monday when the state’s elections division performed scheduled maintenance and found out that somehow old mailing addresses of voters had migrated into the new system.

The problem isn’t a huge concern for county election supervisors right now, some say, because they’re able to double-check their old records to make sure ballots are being sent to the right addresses.

“We all have concerns about it,” said Lester Sola, Miami-Dade’s elections supervisor, who joined his peers in a round of conference calls Wednesday morning with the Florida Division of Elections.

“The issue is: How long will it be down, so we can continue to do our work? Right now, we’re okay.”

Though Sola and others thought the statewide database was down, state elections spokeswoman Jennifer Krell Davis said the system was just sluggish, and that it has been fixed. She said a minuscule number of voter addresses were affected during the routine maintenance and that the state is auditing the system now to make sure the information is correct.

Sola said the bulk of the absentee ballots — about 169,000 — have been sent out so far by his county. But, he said, his office is double-checking to make sure that ballots requested this week are being sent to the proper address.

Sola and other supervisors say they were told Monday that the glitch had been discovered and fixed. But by Wednesday morning, they thought the database was back down.

The uncertainty bothered elections supervisors in midsize counties like Leon’s Ion Sancho, who said any delay is unacceptable this close to the Nov. 2 elections.

“We’re not sending out absentee ballots right now. The whole system has come to a halt,” he said. “Basically, we were told that everything done yesterday was wrong.”

In Palm Beach County, election supervisor Susan Bucher said her team reviewed the 600 ballots it sent out since Monday and determined that four went to the wrong location. So they’re sending new ballots.

“Obviously it’s delaying us,” she said. “And we’re inundated with requests and we want to turn this around quickly.”

Marc Caputo can be reached at mcaputo@MiamiHerald.com.

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