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Palm Beach County's ballot-counting machines off by dozens in tests
Rejected under-votes and over-votes tallied; totals off by dozens

By Brian Haas | South Florida Sun-Sentinel
    October 2, 2008

Palm Beach County's high-speed ballot counting machines couldn't count the same ballots the same way twice in tests performed Wednesday evening.

As part of a challenge to a disputed judicial race, elections officials tested two Sequoia 400-C counting machines to see how they handled ballots they previously rejected as either over- or under-votes.

Gerald Richman, attorney for Circuit Judge Richard Wennet, has argued that the machines are unreliable and the election his client lost should be redone in November. William Abramson, who was certified by the state as the winner of the election Monday, declined to discuss the tests or the legal challenge.

"I'm just very excited to have been declared the winner," he said. "I'm very comfortable with the fact that this will be upheld."

The race for Wennet's seat took three sets of recounts and 30 days to sort out because of problems counting the ballots.

Wednesday's tests were simple. Election workers took 262 ballots previously rejected by the machines as over- or under-votes in the judicial race and ran them through two machines. All of them should have been rejected again in the tests.

That didn't happen.

On the first two tests of 160 ballots, the machines accepted three ballots as good votes. On tests on 102 more ballots that should have been rejected, the machines first accepted 13 ballots as good votes and then 90 on a second run.

Representatives from Sequoia Voting Systems were not at the test and could not be reached to comment Wednesday night.

Election officials did only limited tests on two machines because they're all scheduled to be reprogrammed, starting today, for the Nov. 4 presidential election.

Richman wondered what other problems the machines may have in counting ballots and said they need to be examined more thoroughly.

"The machines do not accurately count," he said. "As a voter and a citizen, I am very concerned."

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