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South St. Pete polling place has Election Day glitch

Election Day started out with a bang in South St. Petersburg, but the hoopla was quickly deflated around 7:53 a.m.

That’s when a technical glitch at the Jet Jackson Recreation Center caused voting to temporarily halt.

The line as polls opened at the precinct was about 40-deep, according to poll watchers. That line was moving swiftly until the glitch allegedly caused poll workers to receive error messages that voters had already cast ballots.

The issue affected several voters who insisted they had not yet voted.

Some of the stories are conflicting. Some reported malfunctioning voting machines. Others said there was user error caused by people double feeding ballots into scanners.

The Supervisor of Elections office said its initial reports suggested it was a poll worker error in which voters were being scanned into the voting queue twice, creating an error.

The issue was fixed by 8:23 a.m. and the SOE office said no voters were turned away. A handful of voters left during the wait because they had to get to work, but planned to return later in the day.

“I’m told everything is fixed and voters were able to cast their ballots,” said state Sen. Darryl Rouson, a Democrat who represents the South St. Pete area.

On the other side of town in West St. Pete, voters in precincts 211, 215, 216 and 222 casting ballots at Pasadena Community Church formed a line about 40 deep that remained steady through 8:00 a.m.

The tone was excited. Every voter left smiling and jovial, proudly boasting their “I Voted” stickers. But their reactions leaving the polls were also indicative of the vitriolic atmosphere surrounding this midterm election.

Dozens refused to comment on the election or talk about their votes. One young man approached the polling place with his mom. He said he was a first time voter, but his mother, asked if they would answer questions about the election, quickly wrapped her arm around him and shuffled him by.

Of the few who did comment, one wouldn’t say who she voted for.

“The most important issues I think would be the healthcare, Social Security and Medicare,” Lori Crisp said. “I want it to be affordable. I don’t want to be paying outrageous amounts. You know, with Social Security and Medicare, you’ve worked all your life and they’ve taken it out of your paychecks, you should be entitled to it.”

Crisp said she doesn’t make voting choices based on partisanship.

“I do my research and make my choices,” Crisp said.

But she sees too many people making voting decisions based on political ads that she described as “mudslinging” that often include misleading or false claims.

Another voter, Joe Davis, came out to vote in favor of Amendment 4, which would restore constitutional rights to non-violent felons who paid their debt to society.

“I’ve got friends that are affected, so this is really important,” Davis said.

Davis completed the entire ballot — right down to local races. He said it wasn’t intentional, but voted for Democrats including Senate candidate Lindsay Cross and House candidate Jennifer Webb. He also supported U.S. Senator Bill Nelson and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum for governor.

Throughout St. Pete, polling places were packed with signs for different candidates and issues. Polling places with multiple precincts casting ballots had long lines. Single precinct polls were quiet.

In Tyrone, Pinellas County Democrats waived signs for local candidates including Webb and Cross. Many proudly wore Gillum shirts.

At Creative Soul coffee shop in the Grand Central District, the barista asked everyone who came in, “Have you voted?”

They all had.

Polls are open until 7 p.m. tonight. Anyone in line by 7 p.m. will be able to vote.

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a die-hard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics, including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and contentious issues surrounding transit. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also a devoted wife and mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder.

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