WEST PALM BEACH, FL (WFLX) - The search for Palm Beach County's missing ballots has hit pay dirt. Top County Brass announced Thursday afternoon they have identified ballots that were not fed through tabulation machine in a recount of a close race for judge.
Assistant County Administrator Brad Merriman and County Commissioner Mary McCarty released the new information at a news conference at the county's vote tabulation center. Neither Merriman nor McCarty would say how the missing ballots were found or how many there are.
"We haven't determined exactly which ballots" did not go through the recount, said Merriman. "But we do know those ballots do exist." Merriman said he believes the number could be significant.
Merriman and McCarty said they would provide more information on Friday, at the conclusion of an exhaustive ballot accounting process now being conducted by county staff.
The vote for Circuit Court Judge between incumbent Richard Wennet and challenger William Abramson was so close, a recount was required under state law. The recount ballot total was some 3,400 fewer less than the number of votes registered in the original tally right after the election.
Merriman also stressed, "The ballots that we found that hadn't been counted, were found in this room." He referred to the large room at the tabulation center where the paper ballots from the August 26th election are being kept.
"They weren't found in a garbage bag, in a landfill or in a trunk of anybody's car," added Merriman. He and Commissioner McCarty took pains to debunk rumors that ballots from certain precincts arrived at the tabulation center in garbage bags and were thrown out in the trash.
Merriman said all ballots from the polling locations arrived at the tabulation center in boxes. Duffle bags and other kinds of bags and containers were used to transport spare ballots and other precinct materials. "There is an urban legend out there we need to nip in the bud," exclaimed McCarty.
The commissioner also expressed hope that the mystery of the missing ballots is closer to being solved. "I think people are feeling pretty good right now," said McCarty. "Optimism is reigning supreme."
It's unclear how the discovery of missing ballots will impact the judge's race, which is now in the hands of a court in Tallahassee. A hearing is tentatively set for Saturday.