Palm Beach County Florida Still Having Election Trouble: Today's Votes of Incompetence

Seth Blank seals an envelope containing his absentee ballot for the Nov. 6th election at the town hall in Cape Elizabeth, Mai
Seth Blank seals an envelope containing his absentee ballot for the Nov. 6th election at the town hall in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, Thursday, Oct. 25, 2012. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

WASHINGTON -- Nearly a dozen years after the notorious 2000 electoral debacle in Florida, Palm Beach County continues to struggle with election troubles. About 27,000 absentee ballots cast by early voters can't be digitally scanned because of a design mistake. Election workers on Monday began to manually duplicate the markings from the bad ballots to new ones, so that the votes will actually be counted, according to the Tampa Bay Times/Miami Herald Tallahassee Bureau.

The bad ballots failed to have a transition between local candidates and those in races for state Supreme Court justices. This made it impossible for tabulating machines to properly read and count roughly 27,000 ballots. So teams of two poll workers, one Republican and one Democrat, are looking at every ballot and marking a new ballot with the same choices.

Local election and party officials said the ballot design faux pas won't change the electoral outcome. "It makes for a great story, but in terms of stuff that will make a difference, it won't," Palm Beach County Republican chairman Sid Dinerstein told the Tampa Bay Times/Miami Herald bureau. "The chance of this affecting any race that you care about is close to zero."

Here are other election news items that were reported late this week from around the country:

-- In Jonesboro, Ark., some early voters got ballots that didn't contain three city council races, reports KAIT8.com. Brandy Brown of the Craighead County Election Commission said the error resulted from recent redistricting. She said it was unclear how many voters received the incorrect ballots. Residents who came in to vote early, starting Thursday morning, received newly printed correct ballots.

-- Some voters in parts of Macomb County, Mich., who requested absentee ballots may not have received them, according to The Oakland Press. Roseville City Clerk Richard Steenland said he's gotten back only about 40 percent of 4,000 ballots that he mailed earlier in October. Clinton Township resident David Kemp said he and his wife applied for a ballot three weeks ago, but haven't received them. He told the newspaper: "We've been waiting and waiting. It's frustrating because we were told they'd be here by (Oct. 24) and there’s no sign of them. And we know it's a big ballot, we want to take our time to consider everything." Local officials say they are working with the Postal Service to try to find out what happened to the ballots, but urged voters to contact their local election official to get a replacement ballot if they haven't received one yet.

-- In Maricopa County, Ariz., election officials have launched a new Spanish-language ad campaign to remind Latino voters of the election date: Nov. 6 -- not Nov. 8, as some election materials had incorrectly said. The Phoenix New Times reports that the county is spending at least $30,000 for the campaign, including flyers and radio and TV ads. County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox called the errors a "tragedy" and said her department "will be reviewing how [the errors] got there in the first place."

-- And a judge in Columbus, Ohio, ruled on Wednesday that provisional ballots cast in the wrong polling location, not just the wrong precinct, must still be counted, The Associated Press reports. The state had opposed expanding the counting for these ballots, saying that giving poll workers more responsibilities and training could lead to more mistakes and confusion on Election Day. But advocates for counting the ballots said that poll workers often give incorrect information to voters about where they should vote. And the judge, Algenon Marbley, agreed: "To disenfranchise citizens whose only error was to rely on poll worker error seems fundamentally unfair," he wrote in his decision.

Democrats have raised concerns that Republicans, trying to win Ohio for Mitt Romney, are intentionally making it harder for liberal-leaning voters and minorities to vote, as Alec MacGillis recently reported in an in-depth article for The New Republic. Republicans usually respond to Democrats' claims by saying they are only trying to crack down on voter fraud and ensure that eligible voters cast ballots.

Follow Daniel Lippman on Twitter @dlippman



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