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Missing Palm Beach Ballots Raise Questions for November

Updated 9:40 p.m.
By Mary Pat Flaherty
About 2,500 ballots remain missing from an Aug. 26 primary in Palm Beach County, Fla.

County workers will fan out to polling places Friday to check whether ballots may have been left there rather than being transferred to a central counting facility. Elections workers also will be counting voter signatures in logs from the primary as they try to account for discrepancies.

A weekend recount in a razor-thin judicial race in the county logged 99,045 ballots -- several thousand fewer than the 102,523 ballots machine scanners had recorded on election night and a difference that propelled Florida Secretary of State Kurt Browning, along with his legal and technical teams, to make a surprise visit to West Palm Beach Wednesday to ask what had gone wrong.

Bin by bin, county workers had gone on the hunt for them Thursday but by evening had accounted for 100,002 ballots, county spokeswoman Kathy Adams said.

Florida state officials are worried that the scramble to reconcile ballot counts could undermine confidence in the switch to optical scan voting equipment statewide -- and also in the accuracy of the upcoming November presidential contest results.

The ballot problem occurred during a county primary with a 17 percent turnout, officials said.

County statements early Thursday indicated that most of the missing ballots had been found in a hand count but "that was speculation from some election staffers. I went back to ask about those and that was not right," Adams said Thursday night.

The county will run all the ballots it has found through high speed scanners Friday to crosscheck results of its hand counts, along with counting the voter signatures from logs.

Palm Beach County's "butterfly ballot" gained notoriety in 2000. The county abandoned punch card ballots after the deadlocked 2000 presidential election, moved to touchscreen machines for the 2004 elections and this year turned to optical scanners, following concerns the electronic machines did not offer a good paper trail in the event of challenges to results.

Browning's spokeswoman, Jennifer Davis, said "the machines worked spectacularly" in the election and said the missing ballots stemmed from "administrative problems" that are being investigated. "This is like balancing a checkbook and hopefully the county will identify a method to reconcile the counts. We believe this is an accounting issue," Davis said. Palm Beach County uses scanners and counters made by Sequoia Voting Systems, which also has staff on site.

The county's contract with Sequoia does not call for company staff to be present at recounts -- and they were not -- but equipment tests run on election night and following the recount found no problems, said Sequoia spokeswoman, Michelle M. Shafer.

A close race for Circuit Judge caused the vote recount. Palm Beach officials had declared incumbent Circuit Judge Richard Wennet the winner by 60 votes over William Abramson but state officials refused to certify that result due to the differing ballot totals.

State elections officials have until 5 p.m. Friday to certify state results so that ballots can be printed for the general election. Because the judicial race determines a winner--and would not have appeared on the November ballot in Palm Beach, Browning will recommend the state certify all but the judicial race results for the county during its Friday meeting, his office said. He made the recommendation late Thursday.

Adams could not explain how ballots found in precinct bins so far had been overlooked.
Palm Beach County Elections Supervisor Arthur Anderson himself lost a bid for re-election during the Aug. 26 primary.

By Web Politics Editor  |  September 4, 2008; 4:56 PM ET
Categories:  Battlegrounds , The Courts  
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How convenient. If we have a close election a recount will be required. If some ballots are missing we can't do the recount. Then the judges get to decide the election. Democracy in Action again in Florida. It looks like the Republicans have their strategy for winning Florida in November--if it's close, make sure a bunch of ballots are lost. There should be a system for keeping track of all ballots so that when something like this happens we know who was supposed to have them. Then the person responsible for the missing ballots should go to jail. Make it a felony. I bet then they would take better care of our ballots.

Posted by: Georgia in Florida | September 7, 2008 2:12 PM | Report abuse

You can bet certain operatives don't want the Palm Beach County elections flawed process to disappear. This screw up is by design.

The fix is in and the electorate is screwed once again. Where is the FBI when we need them?

Vote Susan Bucher for Supervisor of Elections for Palm Beach County!

Posted by: GoSusan | September 7, 2008 1:47 PM | Report abuse

Why are "voting" machines legal?

Posted by: Hilary Smith | September 4, 2008 9:53 PM | Report abuse

This would be funny if it was not so sad, What are you guys doing down their that you can't keep count, misplace! what is that about Maybe voting is a waste of time in Florida. What a shame. It's a sad day when we loss faith in our vote.

Posted by: william block | September 4, 2008 8:04 PM | Report abuse

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation. Democracy demands fair and honest elections. When you can no longer have fair and honest elections, you have no choice but to look somewhere else.

God help this nation.

Posted by: Pete A. | September 4, 2008 7:49 PM | Report abuse

Florida will ruin everything

Posted by: kelly | September 4, 2008 7:42 PM | Report abuse

another fake election count will take place in florida again!

Posted by: beth | September 4, 2008 7:25 PM | Report abuse

Democrats for McCain?? do they exist?

Posted by: Tim | September 4, 2008 7:22 PM | Report abuse

Well , it looks like the repubs are gearing up their fraud machine early this year . But from the polls I've seen , it won't be ebough to help them this time !

Posted by: myself,_smith_and_wesson | September 4, 2008 7:21 PM | Report abuse

What is it with Fl., they seem to fuq things up time and time again, its that damn Jeb Bush isnt it ??? Why wont he act like a big ole terd and just float away !!
Yeah I know this post sounds childish but hasnt this whole election system dont it for the last yr. and a half ??? GOD ( yes I said GOD ),I'm sic of the U.S. govt and its dividing of a what was once a powerful, respected and feared nation.

Posted by: Big'en | September 4, 2008 7:20 PM | Report abuse

"Democrats for John McCain in 2008"...are retarded or really Republicans...either way

Posted by: GARY | September 4, 2008 7:20 PM | Report abuse

Ask Jeb Bush!

Posted by: Tom | September 4, 2008 7:19 PM | Report abuse

It just goes to show how incompetent the Dems are in Florida. They've figured out how to steal Pennsylvania, Michigan, Illinois, and Wisconsin consistently without going through these gyrations. They need to consult the party leaders in one of these states and get some help. They've proven time and again that you don't need actual live voters to have votes.

Posted by: rick g | September 4, 2008 7:01 PM | Report abuse

It's not just Florida, Alaska had problems, and a lot of other states.

Better get it fixed before November, or there will be trouble.

How hard can it be to convert to paper ballots. Manatee County never has any problems, and we use paper ballots.

Posted by: values voter | September 4, 2008 6:50 PM | Report abuse

The Repigs won't steal this election! Not this time, not this year unless the USA want the world to witness the shut down of America!! We ain't having it this election!!!! The world will witness the overthrowing of the American political system as we once knew it! You can't steal another election, rethuglicans...this is not a 3rd world country although under another four years of McBush we just might become a 3rd world country!

Posted by: Anonymous | September 4, 2008 6:48 PM | Report abuse

Don't go blaming the Republicans for this one.

Palm Beach County is a Democrat county. Arthur W. Anderson (D) is their Supervisor of Elections.

Registered Voters 07/31/2008
Democrat: 367,084
Republican: 245,213
Other: 197,353
Total: 809,650

Posted by: Ed | September 4, 2008 6:48 PM | Report abuse

No where in the article does it say what their party is. I BET all the socialcrates are trying to claim foul about the election and another repeat of 2000. When they are the ones trying to cast more votes after the voting was done. Ask Mayor Daley how it is done. Do DEAD people still vote.

Posted by: f plecas | September 4, 2008 6:39 PM | Report abuse

Confidence? In Palm Beach election officials?? Ha Ha Ha ha!. The state is run by Republicans!! They don't believe in competent government so why even bother.

Posted by: thebob.bob | September 4, 2008 6:39 PM | Report abuse

HEADS Up Dem's The REPUGS are gettnig ready to try and steal this one from the DEM's.
remember uncounted ballot papers Florida Jeb bush*
BLoody Republican CROOKS and THIEVES!

Obama and Biden 100%


Posted by: Ian | September 4, 2008 6:20 PM | Report abuse

Surprise, surprise! News clipping from 2004: COLUMBUS - The head of a company vying to sell voting machines in Ohio told Republicans in a recent fund-raising letter that he is "committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year."

The Aug. 14 letter from Walden O'Dell, chief executive of Diebold Inc. - who has become active in the re-election effort of President Bush - prompted Democrats this week to question the propriety of allowing O'Dell's company to calculate votes in the 2004 presidential election.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 4, 2008 6:17 PM | Report abuse

Damn America can not have anything good without Florida going and F-ing it up.

Posted by: Patrick | September 4, 2008 6:08 PM | Report abuse

This has happened so frequently in Florida it isn't even surprising. What is suprising is there is finally a Secretary of State who actually cares and is investigating. I think this is the same company that has screwed up elections in Ohio, Georgia and other states. Will it ever be possible to have an election and trust the voting machines and election boards?

Posted by: Elisabeth | September 4, 2008 6:07 PM | Report abuse

It’s disgrace that we can’t put transparent election system is place. These incidents are slowly eating the fabrics of democracy away. Once the people lose confidence of the election system, we are basically forfeiting the moral underpinning of our constitution. Democracy requires the consent of the people. The consent is lost if the people lose confidence of their vote.

Posted by: VAFormerGOP | September 4, 2008 5:59 PM | Report abuse

Maybe they can let Abramoff out long enough to revamp Florida's election process, LOL.
Our elections are starting to look a lot like Russia's.

Posted by: Bubba | September 4, 2008 5:58 PM | Report abuse

Sounds like they have a real problem counting ballots. LOL. Maybe they do need observers to oversee what exactly is the problem. Something smells about this inability to get it right. Deja vu all over again.

Posted by: ShirleyO | September 4, 2008 5:55 PM | Report abuse

I meant, "aren't rioting in the streets.."

Posted by: Roy Revolt | September 4, 2008 5:51 PM | Report abuse

That's true Dwight.
Competence has nothing to do with it.
I'm surprised people are rioting in the streets, now that they're so brazen about it.

Posted by: Roy Revolt | September 4, 2008 5:50 PM | Report abuse

a test run for the november election, on whose side did the discrepancy benefit?

Posted by: Dwight | September 4, 2008 5:47 PM | Report abuse

there's a reason why it's called the f-state...

Posted by: iratecat | September 4, 2008 5:44 PM | Report abuse

Is ANYONE competent in Florida?

Posted by: JBE | September 4, 2008 5:44 PM | Report abuse

Republicans For Obama 2008

Posted by: Winston Wolf | September 4, 2008 5:39 PM | Report abuse

Democrats for John McCain in 2008

Posted by: Gary | September 4, 2008 5:32 PM | Report abuse

Florida needs some international election observers to help with their corruption problem.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 4, 2008 5:05 PM | Report abuse

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