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.
“I don’t know if this is legal or not,” Bucher told the panel about the possibility of approving different results next week than those certified last week with the state. “But if that is what you want, that is what I will provide.” Meanwhile, incumbent Willhite — a loser under the original March 13 count — sued the canvassing board Tuesday in Palm Beach County Circuit Court to overturn the result.
The drama began after a regularly scheduled audit on Monday showed the elections office had used mixed-up vote totals to wrongly certify Shauna Hostetler in Seat 1 and Al Paglia in Seat 4 as winners. No problems were discovered in the results from 15 other cities that were also audited on Monday. State law specifies that audits be conducted after results are certified.
Aside from causing turmoil in Wellington, the botched results heaped renewed attention on an elections office that gained infamy with the 2000 “butterfly ballot” and was a prominent player in national controversies over hanging chads and paperless electronic voting.