It’s interesting this kind of thing happens in a hotly contested swing state such as Florida:
An hour after polls opened Tuesday morning, the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections Office mistakenly placed hundreds — possibly thousands — of automatic calls to voters instructing them that they had until 7 p.m. Wednesday to vote.
But that is wrong. Polls close at 7 p.m. Tuesday. Any ballots turned in after that time won’t be accepted.
The calls went out between 8 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. because of a glitch with the SOE’s phone system. Calls were made Monday alerting voters who had requested mail ballots but had not returned them that they had until 7 p.m. “tomorrow” to get them turned in.
About 12,000 calls, however, didn’t get through, said SOE spokeswoman Nancy Whitlock. They were stored in a queue and recycled Tuesday morning. The “tomorrow” in the message meant for Monday was incorrect when it was delivered.
“About 30 minutes the calls were going out,” Whitlock said. “We stopped it immediately when we found out about it.”
Charlie and Carole Crist were campaigning for President Barack Obama in Tampa on Tuesday morning, when Mrs. Crist’s cell phone showed a call from Pinellas County, the robocall saying polls would open “tomorrow.”
“Unbelievable,” said the former governor.
It wasn’t easy alerting elections officials of the erroneous messages, said another voter who got the call.
And I assume that each of those voters who were misinformed will be contacted — no matter what it takes — so they can get their ballot in today.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.