Commission Corner: Elections

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By: Robert S. Weinroth Palm Beach County Commissioner Dist. 4 Special to the Boca Newspaper

Ever since the debacle of the 2000 presidential election, when Palm Beach County found itself ground zero for legal challenges to the voter tabulation process, we have been keenly aware of the need to ensure every vote cast is a vote counted.

As elections are decided by less than one percent of the votes cast, weaknesses in the process of tabulating votes have become more apparent.

During the 2018 midterm election, we were confronted by a perfect storm of three contests requiring statewide recounts and a Florida House seat in Palm Beach County requiring a recount.

Unfortunately, a critical weakness in the technology used to tabulate the votes within Palm Beach County only allowed for the recount of one office at a time, in ballot order.

Thus the US Senate recount was completed prior to the recount for Governor. Until the recount for Governor was completed, the recount for Commissioner of Agriculture could not be initiated.

Imagine the frustration felt by the candidates for Florida House District 89, Mike Caruso and Jim Bonfiglio, with less than 40 votes separating them but little hope of a recount being completed within the statutory period.

A recount was only undertaken when a candidate-initiated lawsuit compelled the SOE to do a manual recount. Caruso was declared the winner by 32 votes!

Governor Ron DeSantis voiced his concern over the situation in Broward and Palm Beach County. Soon after taking office, he accepted the resignation of the Broward Elections Supervisor and suspended the Elections Supervisor of Palm Beach County.

Newly appointed PBC Supervisor, Wendy Sartory Link, after just two weeks on the job, appeared before the PBC Board of County Commissioners to secure funding to replace the voter tabulation equipment, computers for provisional ballot processing, phone bank and vote by mail processing.

The Commissioners gave unanimous approval for the supplemental appropriation.

Like Governor DeSantis, who characterized the PBC operations as “the Keystone Kops of election administration,” the commission wants to avoid the limelight in 2020 when the presidential primary will be held in March and the general election the following November.

As the margin of victory (or defeat) for candidates and ballot initiatives continues to remain paper thin, the pressure on the elections administrators will increase.

Validation of signatures is another area where attention must be focused.

Enhanced software will facilitate faster validation of signatures (especially for the Vote by Mail ballots). However, voters need to be aware that the signature they provide to the tax collector when renewing a driver’s license is automatically downloaded to the Supervisor of Elections.

In other words, if you were having a bad day, or just were in a rush to pick up your license and leave, you may find the signature specimen currently on file for voting has little resemblance to your current signature.

A word to the wise should be sufficient.