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Defective cartridge slows PBC vote counting
By Kathleen Chapman Palm Beach Post

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

A defective voting cartridge slowed down the counting of votes Tuesday, Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Arthur Anderson said.

Although a backup tape allowed elections staff to recoup the results, Anderson said the problem was so significant it may lead to the elections office having to reprogram all of its voting machines.
There are three municipal elections in February and many more in March.

The supervisor's web site failed to report how many precincts had been tallied in municipal races Tuesday, making it impossible to tell if all the votes had been counted for each local election. The site did have precinct totals for the county as a whole, with 610 out of 780 precincts reporting at 11:15 p.m.

For hours after polls closed Tuesday, the web site said that no precincts had been counted in local races, despite vote totals in the thousands. For the city of Lake Worth ballot questions, for example, the web site showed more than 3400 votes counted but 0 out of 14 precincts reporting at 9:30 p.m.

After questioned about those numbers by the Palm Beach Post, the Supervisor of Elections removed the precinct counts from the web site for local races from the site at 9:45 p.m., leaving only the countywide totals.

Anderson ducked questions from reporters about city elections until 10:42 p.m., when he said said he wanted to move forward with overall tabulations of votes, rather than report precinct-by-precinct, which would have slowed down the gathering of votes.

Yet less than 10 minutes later, precinct-by-precinct results appeared on county government Channel 20. Anderson reappeared and said, "They're in now."

Anderson said he notified the individual municipalities holding elections that their results won't be known until all county votes are in.

"The locals aren't going to come out until the totals for the evening are tabulated," he said.

"My first priority is accuracy, and then after accuracy, timeliness," Anderson added.

County Commissioner Karen Marcus, a member of the canvassing board, said late Tuesday that the lack of information was "real frustrating to the public, to all of us. We'd like to see some results."

Marcus said she would like discussions after this election to "see how we can do this better."

The problem echoes the September 2006 primary election, when the site also lacked information about the numbers of precincts counted. Anderson promised to post the precinct totals in the November 2006 general election, and did. Broward County, which uses the same software as Palm Beach, was reporting precinct totals for every race Tuesday night.

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