More ballots turn up in Broward
(SUN SENTINEL) Seven days after the election ended, and two days after the results were unofficially certified, Broward elections workers Monday said they had found 963 unaccounted-for ballots in a warehouse.
They were put in the wrong place, members of the Broward County Canvassing Board were told on Monday.
“How can you lose them? This is terrible,” said Dania Beach candidate Chickie Brandimarte, whose close race won’t be called until at least Tuesday.
Elections Supervisor Brenda Snipes said it’s customary for more votes to be added to the totals until the Nov. 18 final certification.
“Everybody who’s been around for any period of time knows that managing paper is a chore, and you don’t count it overnight,” she said. “What we do, and we’ve found it beneficial, is to comb the entire plant looking for something that may have been put in the wrong place. It happens. And when we did that, that’s when we identified [the additional] votes.”
James Rowlee, attorney for the Canvassing Board for the past 10 years, said that to his knowledge, there’d been no 1,000-vote increase after the uncertified results. “But we asked the state on the phone, and they said it was fine.”
Florida already is the butt of national humor for holding elections that take days longer than the rest of the nation to tally, that require voters to stand in six-hour lines, feature confusing “butterfly” ballot designs or require that a dimple in a chad be interpreted by a panel in order to discern a vote for president.
“We searched every nook and cranny, high and low,” said Ed Solomon, director of election planning and development. “These are the additional ballots we found in several sweeps.”
The vote counts have been amended, he said, and didn’t change any results. But that did not mollify canvassing board member Ilene Lieberman, a county commissioner, who hit him with question after question.
“It’s troubling to me that the numbers keep changing,” she said afterward.
Snipes said when ballots and the accompanying computer jump drives are found, her staff checks the precinct number on the ballots and checks to see if the tabulated votes there match the number of voters who checked in to vote. If not, the ballots are tabulated.
Of the 963 previously uncounted ballots, 798 were from Election Day, and 165 were absentee ballots, according to the Elections Office data.
Florida returned to paper ballots in 2007, and 762,000 people in Broward voted in this election.
“I think we’ve done pretty good,” Snipes said Monday.
The revelation brought back memories for some of ballots found months after the election in 2003 in then-Supervisor Miriam Oliphant’s offices.
Local leaders of the Republican and Democratic parties said they didn’t recall seeing such a post-election discovery, except in Oliphant’s case, when the discovery came so late, the votes weren’t tabulated.
Local Republican Party Chairman Richard DeNapoli called it “suspicious” that the chain of custody of ballots might have been broken.
“I know it’s a big operation. But you’d think there’d be an organizational system, a better one.”
Local Democratic Party Chairman Mitch Ceasar and said even if the discovery of additional ballots is a customary part of the process, as Snipes says, improvements are needed.
“It’s never perfect science,” Ceasar said. “But it always needs to strive to be better.”
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