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Ballot Problems Persist; Close Race Still Unresolved  (FL)

CBS 12 News    05 September 2008

As the search for Palm Beach County's missing ballots continued, members of the county's canvassing board essentially gave up on resolving a close race for circuit court judge.

Friday morning, some 75 deputies, firefighters, and county staffers fanned out across Palm Beach County. They had the task of visiting all 500 polling locations and elections offices, just to make sure no ballots were left behind. A report on the field search for ballots is expected at the canvassing board's meeting Saturday morning.

While county employees searched polling locations, elections staffers resumed inspecting their records. A check of voter registration logs from the polls is under way. So far voter totals look to be closer to the original ballot count after last Tuesday's election. The canvassing board expects an on this Saturday as well.

Friday there was yet another new figure for the number of missing ballots. Canvassing board members learned a machine count of the ballots Thursday night turned up nearly 3,000 fewer ballots than the original vote total after the election almost 500 fewer than a hand count earlier in the day.

Upon learning this news, canvassing board members said there was little more they could do with the super close race between incumbent Circuit Court Judge Richard Wennet and challenger William Abramson. "We cannot do anymore for you here," said canvassing board member County Commissioner Mary McCarty, addressing the candidates and their legal representatives. "We can't count any more," said McCarty.

The state election board is holding off on certifying results from the race, holding out hope more ballots surface or the discrepancies can be resolved.

A lawyer representing Judge Wennet, Gerald Richman, said, "We're going to take the position that what they certified here should stand up." He was referring to the recount, which gave Wennet a 60 vote advantage in the race.

But challenger Abramson said because of the ballot discrepancies, go with the original count, which put him up by 17. "Every other race in Palm Beach County was certified based upon the election night totals," said Abramson.

Also Friday canvassing board members expressed the belief a number of issues were to blame for the difference in ballot numbers. "It is a lot of different things that all have come together in the perfect storm," said Commissioner McCarty.

Commissioner Jess Santamaria again asked if the different equipment the precinct machines used in the original count and the rapid scanners used in the recount had been checked for consistency. A representative of Sequoia, the equipment maker, said they were not checked before the election.  "We need to know if the precincts measure the ballots in the same manner that the recount equipment measures," emphasized Santamaria.

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