Court okays another recount in disputed judge race

By Chuck Weber email
Posted by Rachel Leigh email

WEST PALM BEACH, FL (WFLX) - The disputed judge's race in Palm Beach County is closer to being resolved.

Late Tuesday a court in Tallahassee established a course of action for deciding the contest between incumbent Judge Richard Wennet and challenger William Abramson.

Judge Charles Francis okayed a second recount of the vote. And in case that doesn't clearly indicate a winner, Francis cleared the way for a re-vote in November.

The first tally after the August 26 election put Abramson up by 17 votes. A recount made Wennet the winner by 60, but also turned up close to 3,500 ballots fewer than the number believed cast.

Last week staff from other county departments reported to the elections office tabulation center to conduct an accounting of the ballots - or reconciliation. The process was almost complete when the court in Tallahassee ordered workers to stop handling the ballots.

Monday assistant county administrator Brad Merriman announced "finding" all of the missing ballots as well as another 100-plus not counted on election day. Merriman believed he could explain all but 12 of the ballots.

At Tuesday's hearing in Tallahassee, Judge Francis said first county staff should finish their reconciliation. That will take place Wednesday. When the task is complete, the county will report to the judge.

Provided the numbers check out, Francis said he would clear the way for another recount of votes in the race between Wennet and Abramson. The second recount will be like the first, by machine and hand. The results will again be reported to the judge.

Just in case recount efforts prove inconclusive, Judge Francis gave the go-ahead to put the Wennet-Abramson race on the November 4th general election ballot. If a re-vote is not needed, the judge would call off the second vote. But should a re-vote be necessary, having it in November saves the cost of holding a special election.

The remedy spelled out by Judge Francis is what Wennet and his lawyers had requested. Attorney Gerald Richman, representing Wennet, said Judge Wennet is pleased with the ruling.

Even though Abramson's camp had asked for a recount strictly by hand, David Shiner, a lawyer representing the challenger, said Abramson is also pleased. He said the bottom line is counting every vote.