In ancient times, before 2000, Florida elections supervisors had profiles lower than mob guys in witness protection. Then came the butterfly ballot and Bush vs. Gore and the realization that not just anyone can run an election – or at least run an election well. Palm Beach County is on its third elections supervisor since then and next year may have a fourth. Meanwhile, the Legislature has made two major revisions in how the state conducts elections and another big change designed to make voter registration harder. Point being, the workings of elections never have been under more scrutiny. Sadly, 12 years after the biggest election fiasco in U.S. history, Palm Beach County remains unable to produce a string of trouble-free elections, no matter who is in charge. Theresa LePore’s 2000 ballot brought her a challenge from fellow Democrats in 2004. She lost to Arthur Anderson, a former school board chairman who had no experience with elections or technology. Mr. Anderson presided over a reign of error.
Florida: Tangled Web: Wellington, Florida Drama Highlights Complexity of Technology, Value of Audits | Election Academy
An extraordinary story is emerging from an election from the March 13 municipal election in Wellington located in Florida’s Palm Beach County. Election Night returns indicated that two hotly-contested council elections had been resolved in favor of two candidates, but then a routine post-election audit suggested that their opponents had actually won due to errors in tabulating the county’s optical scan ballots. Following a court-ordered manual recount, the revised totals were confirmed. As if that weren’t extraordinary enough, a battle is now underway between the county clerk and her vendor about who was responsible for the error. The clerk is blaming the vendor, saying that the error – which appears to have been caused by a “synchronization” problem between vote-counting and tabulation machines – is something she and her staff have never seen before and thus could never have been expected to catch, let alone fix.
A hand recount could come soon for Wellington residents weary over disputed election results that have left the village council in limbo. On Wednesday, one day after the village’s canvassing board said it wanted a hand recount, seven Wellington residents filed a complaint, as did council candidate John Greene, seeking a court-ordered recount of Wellington’s March 13 races. The county’s elections office and the canvassing board Tuesday agreed to file lawsuits for the recount, but did not say when those filings would happen. “We’re not going to wait on them,” said Greene, who filed a complaint late Wednesday in Palm Beach County Circuit Court. “If a hand recount is what is going to appease everybody, we want it to happen. We want to move on.”
Florida: Wellington canvassing board certifies revised election results subject to hand count | Palm Beach Post
The village council has no newly sworn members and looks exactly like it has for the past few years – despite a March 13 election for three of its five seats. The same council members will rule until and unless a hand recount makes clear who prevailed for mayor, seat 1 and seat 4. Wellington’s canvassing board voted unanimously tonight to certify election results from a March 19 revised tally of votes – subject to their confirmation by a hand count. That means the results still aren’t official and that until and unless there is a hand count – which could take only one day, but must be ordered by a judge – the pre-election council is seated. “What a mess,” Wellington Chamber of Commerce Vice President Victor Connor said as he left the meeting.
A judge has the power to decide whether any candidates are sworn in to the village council tonight, as expected — and if those candidates can be only the original winners of Wellington’s disputed election. Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Robin Rosenberg is expected by this morning to decide whether to hold a hearing today to determine if Wellington’s canvassing board can certify only the village’s March 13 election results. According to a complaint filed Friday by former Wellington Mayor Kathy Foster and Wellington resident Gaye Scarpa, it would be “unlawful” for that board to accept any other results. That’s why they want the judge to stop the board from possibly swearing in candidates whom a March 19 revised tally of votes revealed to be the winners. Three other lawsuits, including one filed Monday, support the March 19 results.
Two Wellington residents – one of them the village’s first mayor – have filed a lawsuit to try to stop Tuesday’s swearing-in of candidates whom a March 19 recount determined were elected to the village council. A hearing will take place at 8:45 a.m. Monday in Palm Beach Circuit Court in front of Judge Robin Rosenberg. The lawsuit, filed by former mayor Kathy Foster and Gaye A. Scarpa, also seeks to stop the village canvassing board from certifying any election results other than those certified by county Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher on March 16.
Florida: Dominion Voting Systems releases statement taking the blame for Palm Beach County vote problem | South Florida Sun-Sentinel.com
The supplier of Palm Beach County’s voting and tabulating equipment says a software “shortcoming” led to votes being assigned to the wrong candidates and the elections office declaring the wrong winners in two recent Wellington council races. County Elections Supervisor Susan Bucher, who insisted a computer glitch rather than human error was to blame for the fiasco, claimed vindication after Dominion Voting Systems released its statement. Wellington and 15 other municipalities held elections on March 13. In Wellington, the ballot was set up with the mayor’s race first, the Seat 1 council race second and the Seat 4 council race third. Unbeknownst to elections officials, the vote totals for the mayor’s race ended up being reported and later certified as the results of the Seat 1 race. The Seat 1 vote totals were certified as the Seat 4 results and the Seat 4 vote totals were certified as the mayoral results. The problem wasn’t discovered until six days after the election, during a routine audit. The audit found no similar problems in the 15 other cities that held elections. The fact that the audit is conducted after winners are certified is a requirement of state law. Bucher said her office “will be working with the state to ask for the necessary law changes.”
In Palm Beach County’s latest voting embarrassment, Wellington decided Tuesday to toss out its tainted March 13 election results while Secretary of State Ken Detzner pledged to find answers and County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher continued to blame a computer software glitch for the tabulating turmoil. After a Monday recount showed the elections office had declared the wrong winners in two of three races, Wellington’s canvassing board voted to scrap the results and scheduled a decision for Tuesday on whether to instead accept the revised vote tallies. That would allow John Greene in Council Seat 1 and Matt Willhite in Seat 4 to be sworn in after it appeared they lost their races last week. But the decision to consider the recount numbers did little to clear confusion surrounding the race and how to resolve it.
Palm Beach County’s elections office appears to have figured out the correct results for three Wellington elections after declaring two wrong winners last week and certifying the results to the state. But in the home of the 2000 “butterfly ballot,” does the fact that erroneous results went undetected for nearly six days in an election with fewer than 6,000 voters carry implications for the November presidential election? Elections Supervisor Susan Bucher characterized the problem as an isolated and unprecedented software glitch that was detected and corrected using routine audit procedures. She said no one in her office is to blame — and she took exception to questions about whether voters might question her office’s ability to deliver accurate results in the future. “This is not a human error. This is a computer-generated error, one that is on a computer system that is tested and certified by the state of Florida,” Bucher told reporters.