TAMPA, Sept. 18 -- A mistake by an election worker "lost" 245 electronic ballots cast in last month's Florida primary, but the mix-up did not change the outcome of any race when the votes were finally counted, authorities said.
Hillsborough County residents cast the ballots before the Aug. 31 election on an ATM-style machine set up at a library, Elections Supervisor Buddy Johnson said. A member of Johnson's staff left the machine, made by Sequoia Voting Systems, in test mode. The votes were recorded and stored but not counted until they were found Friday.
Johnson said the votes were discovered missing when his staff compared the number of people who signed in to vote at the precinct and the number of ballots counted there. In all, the county had 118,699 votes cast.
Although the 245 ballots did not change any outcomes, there were close contests. In the Republican primary for state House District 47, Kevin Ambler defeated Bill Bunkley by 130 votes.
"We're very disappointed this happened," Johnson said of the error. "That's the bottom line."
He assured voters that the error would not be repeated for the presidential election Nov. 2. Florida decided the 2000 race by 537 votes.
Touchscreen critics worry about problems in Florida because of the Bush-Gore controversy.
"What they lost was about half of what elected the president in 2000," said Reggie Mitchell, election protection director at People for the American Way Foundation.
Critics such as the foundation want electronic machines to have a paper trail, but equipment makers contend that the devices are accurate.