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Election officials stumped by about 3,400 missing ballots  (FL)

JANE MUSGRAVE and SUSAN SPENCER-WENDEL   Palm Beach Post   02 September 2008

Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Arthur Anderson confirmed today that roughly 3,400 ballots that were counted in Tuesday's election didn't turn up when a recount was conducted over the weekend.

Kathy Adams, a spokesman for the office, said the reason for the discrepancy wasn't immediately apparent to election workers as they started comparing vote numbers this morning. On Tuesday, 102,523 ballots reportedly were cast. After the recount, the number dwindled to 99,045.
She said the office intends to meet today's deadline to certify the results of the election to the state and hope to have an answer by the end of the week.

The canvassing board was not expected to meet today to certify the results of the election, but its members have to sign off on the final tallies by today. The chairman of the board, County Judge Barry Cohen, said there were no numbers on the document brought to him for signing today. County Commissioner Addie Greene, also a board member, said she didn't notice whether numbers were filled in on the report she signed.

"I really wasn't looking for them. I didn't know they were supposed to be on there," Greene said.

Both Cohen and Greene said they had not heard the elections office's confirmation of the missing ballots.

Cohen said he would be "absolutely stunned and disappointed" if they were found sitting somewhere, uncounted.

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

The third member, Commissioner Mary McCarty, wasn't immediately available for comment.

Adams said the elections office is in touch with officials from Sequoia Voting Systems, the manufacturer of the $5.5 million optical scan system that debuted countywide on Tuesday. Hopefully, she said an explanation for the discrepancy will be found by the end of the week.

However, that means the only recourse for anyone who wants to challenge the election is to file a lawsuit, said state elections officials.

The state canvassing board has no authority to intervene, said Jennifer Krell Davis, a spokeswoman for the Florida Division of Elections. "The results are the results," she said.

Judicial candidate William Abramson, who ended up losing to veteran jurist Richard Wennet as a result of the weekend recount, has already said he is exploring the possibility of filing a lawsuit.

Since the recount was completed at roughly 1 a.m. Sunday, he has insisted both ballots and votes were lost. In the race for the circuit court judgeship, over 2,900 votes disappeared along with 3,400 ballots, Adams said, confirming his claims. Abramson went into the recount leading by 17 votes and ended up losing by 60.

Some of the discrepancy in the vote can be explained by what are known as undervotes and overvotes. Undervotes occur when a voter doesn't vote in a race. Overvotes occur when a person votes for more than one person in the same race.

On Sunday, Anderson suggested that the discrepancy in the votes might be because the machines at the polling places were more likely to count undervotes and overvotes than the high-speed machines used for the recount. But, Adams said, there is no immediate explanation as to why the number of ballots ped.

Abramson might not be the only one to file suit.

Sid Dinerstein, chairman of the Palm Beach County Republican Party, said he was appalled by the discrepancy. Reached at the GOP National Convention in St. Paul, Minn., he said he will encourage any candidate that lost by small margins to file suit, demanding a recount.

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