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Recount end: Tallying totals by hand on legal pad   (FL)

SUSAN SPENCER-WENDEL     Palm Beach Post    03 September 2008

WEST PALM BEACH Midnight slid away and the marathon judicial race recount continued into the dead of night.

Canvassing board members and elections office staff appeared blearier by the hour Sunday morning. The dark circles underneath board Chairman Barry Cohen's eyes could be seen from across the room. He and fellow canvassing board members - Palm Beach County Commissioners Addie Greene and Mary McCarty - sat before a table stacked with papers, folders, with a stenographer typing their every word.
Election 2008

They vetted ballots, adding, subtracting, adding, subtracting. One for challenger William Abramson. Minus one for incumbent Circuit Judge Richard Wennet. Add one for Wennet. Minus for Abramson. Sweeping all types of ballots, including absentees and provisionals, into the final stew of numbers.

At one point much earlier in the day, Supervisor of Elections Arthur Anderson had walked into the tabulation center where teams were manually looking at scores of ballots. "What is this?" Anderson asked as he looked out over the scene, trying to figure what stage the recount was in.

Toward 1:30 a.m., all eyes riveted on McCarty tallying final totals by hand on her legal pad. McCarty called out for someone to double-check her math, and kept adding, finally declaring Wennet the winner by 60 votes. Sixty out of nearly 88,000 votes counted the second time around.

Upon that declaration, the crowd dwindled quickly and the canvassing board adjourned with no exploration of disparities in the numbers before them even though the number of both votes and ballots had dwindled since election day. Anderson's office acknowledged Tuesday that roughly 3,400 ballots were missing, ballots that counted during last week's election but didn't turn up in the recount.

An exhausted Cohen had been there 18 hours straight. "It is what it is," he said at the time.

McCarty had spent the previous night at the tabulation center near the airport. She stayed awhile longer early Sunday, though, sitting with Ed Artau, the elections law attorney who advises the canvassing board. She turned sheets in her legal pad going over the numbers as Artau punched them into a calculator, double-checking.

At one point, McCarty looked up and said: "This is pitiful."

Later, Anderson, sat down with them. McCarty could be heard from across the room chiding him, telling him people were going to want answers about where the votes went, and that he had a big public relations problem on his hands.

Cohen said Tuesday that the board pushed through Saturday night into Sunday to ensure state deadlines - the last of which passed Tuesday - would be met. The specter of the contested presidential election in 2000, when the canvassing board stopped counting and missed a deadline, is a big reason. He does not believe speed compromised accuracy, though, he said.

He would be "absolutely stunned and disappointed" if the 3,400 missing ballots were found sitting somewhere, uncounted.

The canvassing board's job is to create a record of the recount, follow mandated steps and send the results to Tallahassee. "Unfortunately, I don't think it's my position to make any sense out of it," Cohen said.

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