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Circuit judge wins recount, but controversy shrouds vote  (FL)

Mark Hollis     South Florida Sun-Sentinel     01 September 2008

A dramatic, two-day vote recount to determine who will hold a Palm Beach County judicial seat ended at 1 a.m. Sunday with Circuit Judge Richard Wennet capturing 60 more votes than his challenger, attorney William Abramson.

Wennet, 59, a bow-tie-wearing sitting judge of 23 years, captured 43,932 votes, edging out Abramson, 41, who won 43,872 votes.

But the election remains controversial for the Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Office. A recount yielded roughly 3,000 fewer votes in that race than what elections officials reported last week.

County officials said they are still determining the reason for the disparity. The results aren't final until confirmed by state officials later this week.

The recounting of ballots was an around-the-clock weekend ordeal for dozens of county elections workers, lawyers for the candidates and a three-member county canvassing board, which included two county commissioners and County Judge Barry Cohen.

Kathy Adams, a spokeswoman for Supervisor of Elections Arthur Anderson, said the process ended with the conclusion of a manual recount of a portion of the ballots. That hand recount involved only 11,241 ballots in which a voter had marked more than one choice in the race, a so-called "over" vote, or ballots where neither candidate got a vote, an "under" vote. Earlier in the weekend, there was a machine recount of all ballots.

Attorney Darren Shull, a Wennet supporter, said the disparity in the number of votes tabulated on election night and the number presented after the recount raises questions about Palm Beach County's readiness for the November general election.

Regardless, Shull insists that Wennet won his race.

"Judge Wennet is the winner, and we did what we were supposed to," Shull said. "The law was followed, and I believe it is a completely fair and legal election done by the book."

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