Several dozen pairs of eyeballs will examine ballots from Wellington’s disputed election when a hand count begins at 8 a.m. Saturday in the county elections office, the finale — or so many hope — to a string of lawsuits and weeks of confusion over the voters’ choices for three village council seats. “Just get it done,” candidate Al Paglia said. “The sooner, the better.” On Wednesday, within a half-day of the village’s canvassing board deciding that a manual recount was the only way to swear in winners indisputably, seven Wellington residents filed a complaint in Palm Beach County Circuit Court asking for just that. Judge Robin Rosenberg on Thursday ordered a manual recount of the March 13 races, which yielded incorrect winners because of an apparent software error.
Election night results placed Paglia and Shauna Hostetler as victors in seats 4 and 1, respectively. But a routine audit showed the original vote total had been matched to the wrong candidates and that Matt Willhite had won Seat 4 and John Greene had won Seat 1. In both cases, Bob Margolis prevailed over Darell Bowen for mayor.
Many had expected Rosenberg’s hearing to be preliminary, but her decision was swift. A phalanx of lawyers representing residents and candidates in a bevy of lawsuits filed last week and this week assured the judge that they weren’t opposed to the hand count, although some disagreement lingered over how the election audit and certification of results had unfolded. By Thursday afternoon, Saturday’s hand count — expected to take about six hours — was set. “It was wise to do it sooner than later,” Hostetler said. “I will be very supportive of what those numbers are.”