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Florida! OMG! You did it again!

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Filed: Timeline
Hand-copying bad Palm Beach County absentee ballots likely to lead to errors, lawsuits, election observers warn

Despite Palm Beach County Elections Supervisor Susan Bucher’s assurances that safeguards will be in place to make sure as many as 27,000 absentee ballots are copied accurately, there is no way that many ballots can be duplicated without mistakes, a local GOP leader and a former Florida secretary of state said Thursday.

“With people copying around 30,000 ballots and each marking votes in 20 races, that’s 600,000 marks,” Palm Beach County Republican Chairman Sid Dinerstein said. “Some of them will be incorrect.”

“Every time you duplicate a ballot you run the risk of making a mistake, particularly with 27,000 ballots,” agreed Kurt Browning, who was responsible for the state’s Division of Elections during the five years he served as secretary of state under Govs. Charlie Crist and Rick Scott.

The number of ballots that will be duplicated is unprecedented, said Browning, who also served 26 years as supervisor of elections in Pasco County. Even with dozens of people working, it will take hours and hours to sort them and copy them by hand.

And, in close races, it is likely lawsuits will result, Dinerstein said. “There will be some races we won’t know the results of for weeks,” he said.

The printing error that sullied the first batch of 60,000 Palm Beach County absentee ballots is more complex and potentially more problematic than the infamous butterfly ballot that put the county in the national spotlight in 2000, he said. The butterfly ballot threw the presidential election into chaos for 36 days, until George W. Bush was declared the victor by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The printing error affects every election and referendum question on the lengthy Nov. 6 ballot. Bucher said her workers managed to prevent 10,000 of the flawed ballots from being mailed. About half of the defective ballots — 25,000 to 27,000, she said — will be able to be read by tabulating machines. The rest, however, will have to be copied so the votes can be counted.

With the copying set to begin Monday, it is still unclear exactly how it will be done. John Boynton, interim director of the Florida Division of Elections, gave Bucher until 5 p.m. Thursday to submit a plan for his review. But, in an email, she told Boynton it wasn’t ready. Her attorney, Ken Spillias, spent Thursday in Tallahassee representing her in a lawsuit filed by unsuccessful state Senate candidate Mack Bernard over his razor-thin August defeat by Jeff Clemens.

“Our procedures for duplication of absentee ballots that we discussed are currently in draft form for review and will not be able to have our attorney review the procedures until tomorrow,” she wrote. “I would be happy to provide you a copy prior to release tomorrow afternoon.”

Bucher has proposed having roughly a dozen two-member teams hand-copy the ballots. Their work would be reviewed by a supervisor before the votes would be counted. The original and duplicate ballot would be saved. She is suggesting that crews from the county’s public-access television channel videotape the proceedings. The public would be allowed to watch, and candidates or their representatives would be allowed to sit behind the teams.

With Democratic President Obama and his Republican challenger Mitt Romney locked in a tight race for Florida, not to mention the dozens of other candidates on the ballot, some have suggested that the plan is a recipe for disaster. There won’t be enough room to accommodate all those who want to monitor the procedure, some attorneys and political consultants claim.

Dinerstein said the local party plans to send representatives. The Florida Democratic Party said it would, too. Scott Arceneaux, executive director of the Florida Democratic Party, declined further comment. Terrie Rizzo, chairwoman of the county Democratic Party, didn’t return a phone call.

Browning questioned whether all the complicated machinations are necessary. The printing problem involved not putting a header over the merit retention races for judges on the Florida Supreme Court and 4th District Court of Appeal. Once the header was put back in, the alignment on the ballot shifted, making it impossible for tabulation machines to read both types of ballots. Bucher said machines can’t be programmed to read both, so the defective ballots have to be copied.

But, Browning said, once the error was discovered, it would have made more sense to stick with that ballot. Asked, for instance, “Shall R. Fred Lewis of the Supreme Court be retained in office?” voters could have figured out they were voting in a judicial race even without the header.

“My gosh, we’re not talking misspelling a name or leaving a race off the ballot. You’re talking about a heading,” he said.

While recognizing that the supreme court justices are under attack, he said he would have taken the risk that voters would have figured it out rather than to set the stage for the massive duplication process.

“What I would have done is I would have taken my chances (of getting sued),” he said. “I am not going to cause voter confusion and impugn the integrity of the election by having two different ballots out there.”

Meanwhile, voters continue to voice concern that they haven’t received absentee ballots they requested weeks ago. Further, they said, when they call the elections office, they said they can’t get a straight answer about the delay.

After not getting her ballot that she was initially told was mailed Oct. 2, suburban Lake Worth resident Barbara Lackey said she called the office Monday and was told it should arrive within 10 days. “Wait 10 days? Ten days to get right around town?” she asked. “This is criminal. I lived in Michigan and there was never a problem with the election until I came down here. It’s like the Three Stooges election bureau.”

Dinerstein said he’s heard complaints, as well. There are still more than two weeks before the election. “No one needs to panic,” he said. Further, he said, look at the bright side.

“When they get them, they will be the good kind,” he said.



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Filed: Timeline
Absentee voting's rise means more risk of problems

MIAMI (AP) - Because of a printing error, somewhere around 27,000 absentee ballots already cast by voters are being painstakingly copied by hand in Palm Beach County to make sure they can be read by a scanning machine. Otherwise, thousands of people could be disenfranchised in the Florida county that was ground zero in the 2000 presidential recount.

Printing errors have caused problems on thousands of absentee ballots around the country, from Cleveland to Daytona Beach, Fla., to Kalamazoo, Mich. While in most cases corrected ballots are simply mailed as replacements, in some places it was too late to catch mistaken ballots before voters returned them.

Not to worry, said Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher.

"It's not rocket science. We duplicate ballots all the time," Bucher said. "It's a real simple procedure. But this year it's a presidential year and I do understand the cause for concern."



It's like deja vu all over again! :blink:

Edited by The Patriot

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But it will be ok as long as the mistakes favor Romney. Right?

I can live with that.


"I want to take this opportunity to mention how thankful I am for an Obama re-election. The choice was clear. We cannot live in a country that treats homosexuals and women as second class citizens. Homosexuals deserve all of the rights and benefits of marriage that heterosexuals receive. Women deserve to be treated with respect and their salaries should not depend on their gender, but their quality of work. I am also thankful that the great, progressive state of California once again voted for the correct President. America is moving forward, and the direction is a positive one."

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