Serious, Senseless, Nonsense in Palm Beach

Update: As more details come out the story keeps changing. But the problem also gets larger. The latest is that 2500 ballots may actually be missing, the results of additional races in the same election may be questionable, and good old chain-of-custody issues may be more or as much as a problem as anything electronic <read>
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Florida just keeps on being the poster state for what is wrong with our election systems. The story(s) from Palm Beach makes it look like the three stooges are in charge. Daily Voting News has several articles and comments over the last couple of days DVN 9/2 DVM 9/3. I will cover just some of the most interesting/unbelievable reports here.

In summary as best I can piece together from the many reports:

  • Election night totals followed by a machine recount showed 3400 less ballots in the recount.
  • The main reason the 1st machine count and 2nd machine counts differ by some 3400 votes is that they were testing vote tabulation at the same time they were counting the primary and double counted some precincts.
  • To recount they ran the ballots through different scanners and found an amazing 2700 votes that the machine would not read and they counted them by hand, then the tired election officials added/subtracted etc and declared the result.
  • In a hurry to meet certification deadlines, officials signed blank certification forms without knowing that many discrepancies had been detected..
  • The official in charge of all this was the looser in the three way race. The other two candidates were separated by 18 votes and 60 votes in the original and recounts. If the original margin had been larger, we would have had no recount – no attention to this problem.

From the Palm Beach Post:

The much-vaunted paper ballot was sold as a way to make sure every vote counted.

Instead, its debut in Palm Beach County threw the election process into turmoil as officials announced Tuesday that about 3,400 ballots that were counted in last week’s election did not turn up when a recount was conducted over the weekend.

I disagree with this for two reasons:

  • It would not be a mess if the paper were actually used as intended -for a hand count of the ballots
  • Because the paper exists it is possible to recount and audit. That is occurring, so far, in a very flawed process. Without the paper all we would have is illusion.

And another from the Palm Beach Post:

Indian River County’s three-member canvassing board approved the Aug. 26 primary results on Tuesday — but those numbers are absent the more than 5,000 votes that had to be removed from the election night totals due to the ballots in 40 precincts being counted twice.

And an editorial from the same Palm Beach Post:

Supervisor of Elections Arthur Anderson, who finished last in a three-way race for reelection, is breaking in a new voting system and learning, literally, as he goes. He’ll be in charge in November, when voters pick his successor as well as the next president. Turnout could be five or six times greater than last week, which would stress a system that already seems too fragile.,,

There is no simple explanation for Palm Beach County’s confusion. Dr. Anderson’s spokeswoman warned not to expect answers before the end of the week. But those will be answers from the people who made the mistakes. While state law doesn’t authorize intervention, Dr. Anderson has to seek help, starting with Secretary of State Kurt Browning, a former Pasco County elections supervisor.

For Mr. Abramson, the county’s explanations will be too late. He’ll surely sue. That’s one way to get answers. The better way would be for Dr. Anderson to realize that the public can’t wait for a lawsuit. The general election is 62 days away. He must provide answers, and quickly.

From John Gideon’s Daily Voting News Summary 9/3:

Canvassing Board approved the primary election results. Hopefully the reader will recall that Indian River had over 5000 ballots that were counted twice because someone decided to do a test in the middle of a real election and then failed to properly remove the results in that test. The result was ballots from 40 polling sites that were counted twice. Luckily an observant poll worker realized the totals for her site were double what they should have been. She pointed out the mistake and the county found their error.

Tomorrow the board must do a state mandated audit to ensure their voting machines were correctly counting the votes. If the poll worker hadn’t been observant and if this audit were to find the problem, or any other problem that might exist with the vote count, NOTHING can/could be done because the results have already been approved by the Canvassing Board.

One has to wonder what some officials in Florida are thinking when they make stupid rules. This audit is newly mandated. Why didn’t they mandate it to happen before canvassing the election? Post election audits are great. We need them everywhere and following every election but they have to be timed in such a way as to mean something if problems are found. If they don’t have a purpose (to ensure the votes were properly counted) then they are a waste of tax money….

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