Third recount in Palm Beach judge's race?

By Chuck Weber email
Posted by Rachel Leigh email

WEST PALM BEACH, FL (WFLX) - After a second recount over the weekend, there's still no winner in a disputed race for judge in Palm Beach County. There is, however, yet another ballot problem.

Monday afternoon Assistant County Administrator Brad Merriman told the county's canvassing board it was either human error or machine malfunction. The problem, he said, centered around 159 ballots which registered no vote in the machine recount. Those ballots were supposed to be separated and counted by hand. Instead they ended up back in the precinct boxes.

The latest incomplete tally puts challenger William Abramson ahead by 58 votes over incumbent Judge Richard Wennet. Chances are the misplaced 159 ballots would not significantly change that outcome.

Merriman said his staff knows which precincts the misplaced ballots come from. Canvassing board members said they were willing to recount those precincts for a third time. That's about 3000 votes.

However a judge in Tallahassee will decide what happens next. Judge Charles Frances had ordered the second recount after county staff located close to 3,500 ballots which turned up missing in the first recount. Judge Frances has set a hearing for Tuesday morning to deal with the latest ballot issue.

"When the judge looks at how these numbers have changed and all the questions that have been raised," said Gerald Richman, an attorney for Wennet, "the only fair answer is to be on the November ballot and get this resolved."

Abramson's camp disagreed. "The votes are here," said attorney Reeve Bright. "If there's a malfunctioning in the equipment, the votes should be hand counted. There is no reason to have a do-over election."

The latest ballot trouble only adds to wariness about the new voting system and Palm Beach County's elections office. "A vote of no confidence," declared Sid Dinerstein, chair of the county's Republican Party. "And there's a great fear about where we're going to be in about 40 days"-- meaning the general election November 4th. Representatives of the Democratic Party and Voters Coalition expressed similar concerns.