Pinellas elections supervisor Deb Clark still not taking responsibility for errant robocalls

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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 Elections 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 6:20pm Thursday.

The statement said that at 8:34 a.m.. on Election Day the Pinellas elections staff realized the erroneous calls had being going out for 34 minutes and immediately stopped them. The statement doesn’t explain who is responsible for the erroneous messages.

The statement said 99 percent of those who received the automated 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.”

Material from Mark Douglas of News Channel 8 was used in this post.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.