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Palm Beach Co. Ballot Creases Cause Chad-Like Blunders  (FL)

WPBF-TV   02 November 2008

Some Palm Beach County voters who have voted by absentee ballot faced a wrinkle in their plans on Saturday.

President George W. Bush cast his absentee ballot, and then urged Americans to get out and vote.

"After months of spirited debate and vigorous campaigning, the time has come for Americans to make important decisions about our nation's future," Bush said. "I encourage all Americans to go to the polls and vote."

Creases in absentee ballots are the latest headaches to roll into the Palm Beach County tabulation center since the hanging chads posed a problem eight years ago. Ballots folded in half when they were mailed are giving high-speed tabulators some trouble.

"We have 185 different ballot styles, so most of them, it's not going to be an issue," said Palm Beach County Assistant Administrator Brad Merriman.

Merriman insisted the problem is not widespread because the crease only presents a problem when it falls exactly where the voting arrow does.

"Sometimes the fold goes across a race an arrow that points to a race, and sometimes these machines are picking these up as over votes," Merriman said.

"I also think we have a crease issue, because the crease is right on the names," said Judge Barry Cohen of the Palm Beach County Canvassing Board. "I totally agree."

The Canvassing Board will have to eyeball affected creased ballots. And with 140,000 absentees sent out, the board is still hanging onto their sense of humor.

"They're going to do a parody of the Palm Beach County Canvassing Board on 'Saturday Night Live' tonight," Merriman said Saturday afternoon.

Cohen said he predicts the crease issue will be ironed out.

"But unlike the chads and the fiasco in 2000, this is not a situation where a vote will not count," he said.

In 100 ballots checked by the Canvassing Board, the crease was only an issue a few times. It was much more common that people wrote in Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's name for president.

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