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Ballot Debacle Continues, 2500 Ballots Still Missing  (FL)

CBS 12 News    04 September 2008

  The election mystery continues tonight. Palm beach County officials say 2500 ballots still cannot be found from last week's judges race. The frustration is growing and more candidates are coming forward calling for a recount now in other races.

  Right now workers are counting the ballots, not the votes, just the ballots to try and determine exactly how many people voted. They thought they knew that number, turns out now they're not so sure. Meanwhile new issues and concerns keep on popping up.

  "We are doing our best to get it right. And we will get it right. And they should be outraged and I don't blame them. I'm outraged", said Palm Beach County Commissioner and canvassing board member Mary McCarty.

   Officials are still missing more than 2500 ballots they think.  A close race for a palm beach county judge's seat is yet to be resolved. So the paper ballots are being counted again. And lawyers for both candidates are calling the process unacceptable.

"It's kind of like a moving target. And it should not be that way. They've got to get their act together here to get it done right", said Gerald Richman who is representing on candidate, Judge Richard Wennet.

"It's very disconcerting because people went out and voted candidates worked it seems to me they are disenfranchising voters", says Reeve Bright who was invovled in the 2000 recount. He says other candidates are affected too.

  Steve Perman who ran for state representative and lost by just 200 votes now wonders if the outcome of his race could change if thousands of missing ballots are found.

"Yes of course it concerns me how can it not. My race came down to roughly one percent across the district that I ran in", said Perman

Along with another ballot count, county employees will spread out across the county and search 800 precincts...collection centers..and elections offices looking for misplaced ballots. Now, officials think the ballots could be missing because of problems with the county machines or human error. But commissioner McCarty says there is a silver lining in all this.

"As a result of this at least we are going to find out the vulnerabilities are and we are going to change the process so that this doesn't happen again", said McCarty.

The primary election has shown us that they are not ready...and I don't there is anyone here who thinks they are. But officials hope that this debacle will shine some light on the problems that they've had. They are estimating 10 times as many people will vote in November so it's absolutely critical they get this worked out. So in a week and a half the Secretary of State, Kurt Browning will come back to Palm Beach county and sit down with the election officials find a way to improve the process. They are going to improve training for poll workers. They are also going to change the way the collect and account for boxes of ballots. They know this cannot happen come November. No one wants to see it happen again. Governor Charlie Crist is also paying close attention. They must find a way to restore voter confidence in this process. And eveyone admits it's taken quite a hit during the last week and a half. We hope to know more tomorrow.

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