A voting system has to do two things: Count votes correctly and keep them secure. The Sequoia voting system in Palm Beach County, harshly criticized and already old in 2007 when the county paid $5.5 million to keep it, has for years come under fire for not reliably doing one or the other — or both. The aging system made headlines again last week, when high-speed vote counters appeared to overheat. That delayed vote counting in the nationally watched Florida recount. Why Palm Beach County didn’t update its aging vote-counters. Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher Thursday reiterated her belief that equipment malfunctions are at fault for a failure to finish a machine recount in four races by a state-mandated deadline. The county’s equipment is so outmoded she didn’t have time to even start the recount of nearly 600,000 ballots in two of the statewide races.
Palm Beach County’s race to recount votes is heating up — literally. The county’s decade-old ballot-counting machines overheated and gave incorrect totals, forcing the county to restart its recount of about 175,000 early votes., supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher said Tuesday night. The department has flown in mechanics to repair the machines. “We’re disappointed by the mechanical problems that are going to cause a further delay in the recount,” Bucher told reporters. “It became evident through the vigorous pace of counting that the machines used for the recount were starting to get stressed.” The malfunctions resulted in the loss of more than a day’s work. Bucher said on Monday that her office wouldn’t be able to meet the 3 p.m. Thursday deadline imposed by the state. On Saturday, state election officials said Florida’s 67 counties had to recount the more than 8 million ballots cast statewide because the results in three major elections — U.S. Senate, governor and agriculture commissioner — were under the 0.5 percentage point threshold that triggers the mandatory recount, according to state law.
Every so often here, in the Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections office warehouse, someone mutters “Bush v. Gore” or, worse, “butterfly ballot.” For elections workers, November 2000 is an embarrassing legacy. For campaign lawyers, it’s a badge of honor, more Purple Heart than Silver Star. Recently, lawyers and volunteer ballot readers have flocked again to this hapless county, calling to mind 12 years of election blunders. If not for 2000, many say, this month’s printing error that spoiled about 35,000 absentee ballots might have gone unnoticed, and the Supervisor of Elections office might have escaped new scrutiny ahead of the Nov. 6 presidential election.
Republicans and Democrats have long been concerned about how the vote will shake out in Arapahoe County — one of the key swing counties in an undecided state — and now they have one more thing to fear: an “I Voted” sticker. More than 230,000 ballots last week were mailed to Arapahoe County’s voters in envelopes that possibly contained a participation sticker that rubbed up against the ballot and in some cases left a faint, near-linear mark that appeared exactly where voters draw a line to select their candidates.
It’s a ballot recount in a tight presidential race that invites easy comparisons to the electoral crisis of 2000. About 27,000 absentee ballots can’t be digitally scanned because of a recently discovered design flaw. Elections workers began Monday duplicating the markings from bad ballots to new ones so that the votes could be recorded, an effort that has led some to question the accuracy of results. And it’s all happening in Palm Beach County. “By now, questions can be asked about why these type of problems keep happening in this one county,” said Ed Foley, an Ohio State University law professor and expert on election law.