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Pinellas elections supervisor releases statement on robocalls error

News Channel 8
Published:   |   Updated: May 16, 2013 at 08:59 PM
ST. PETERSBURG -

Pinellas Supervisor of Elections Deborah Clark released a statement late Thursday saying her office acted quickly on Election Day to correct misleading robocalls, but fell short of taking responsibility for the mistake that incorrectly told thousands of Pinellas voters they had another day to hand in mail ballots.

The controversy over those automated calls has become a coast-to-coast joke with comedians such as Stephen Colbert poking fun about the blunder on national television.

But not everyone's laughing. Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn says Tuesday's mistake across the bay in Pinellas County is inexcusable.

"I'm sure it wasn't intentional, but we can't afford on Election Day to have that type of situation happen," Buckhorn said. "Particularly considering Florida's history."

Clark initially faulted the California-based vendor she hired, CallFire Inc., for sending out more than 12,000 robocalls Tuesday telling voters they had until "tomorrow" to hand in their mail ballots.

But CallFire responded with a statement on Election Day that said, "To be absolutely clear: there was no technical glitch with the CallFire system."

The CallFire statement went on to say someone in Clark's Pinellas office was responsible for manually stopping the calls Monday but failed to do so.

Clarke wasn't in her office Thursday but appeared to be backing off her earlier criticism of CallFire in a press release issued by elections office spokeswoman Nancy Whitlock at 6:20 p.m. Thursday.

The statement said that at 8:34 a.m. on Election Day, the Pinellas elections staff realized the calls had being going out for 34 minutes and immediately stopped them. The statement didn't identify who was responsible for the messages.

The statement said 99 percent of those who received the calls were contacted with an "updated message" by 11:02 a.m. on Election Day, and by day's end "all but 16 voters were reached."

Clark's release concludes, "We regret any inconvenience which may have resulted."


mdouglas@wfla.com (727) 431-3448

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