Three Florida election races required a statewide recount this year, and vote-counting problems in Palm Beach County figured in the drama, as in previous years.
For such problems, federal funds have been made available to states through the Help America Vote Act of 2002, or HAVA. And, as RealClearInvestigations reports, Palm Beach County’s ongoing problems are exemplified by how it has spent those funds.
This year, the county used its $909,000 share of HAVA funds to buy iPads for voters to check in at the polls.
In 2009, according to an audit, the county’s elections department spent $48,000 in HAVA money on coloring books.
This despite the fact that when the current Palm Beach elections supervisor, Susan Bucher, took office in January 2009, the voting machines were not producing accurate results.
In this month’s election, eight of the county’s voting machines malfunctioned while recounting ballots.
RealClearInvestigations quoted Gerald Richman, a veteran elections lawyer who represented Democrats in Florida during the 2000 presidential election recount, saying the issues were probably a combination of technical and user mistakes.
“It’s hard to say why Florida is always involved in this, other than we have a lot of close races and a lousy voting system,” he said.
Vote machine company: ‘Don’t blame us’
Last week, Bucher told reporters the machines were “stressed” by the “vigorous pace of counting.”
But a representative for the company behind the Palm Beach machines, Dominion Voting Systems, told RealClearInvestigations the claim that the equipment is at fault is a “mischaracterization.”
“There were no reports of overheating machines during the recount. We had engineers on the ground there, available 24/7, and they heard nothing from anyone at Palm Beach County,” said Kay Stimson, the company’s vice president of government affairs.
Stimson said her company “shipped motors to Palm Beach County the weekend before the machines were to be used for the recount, knowing that this was going to be a highly unusual situation and there would be stress far beyond normal usage.”
“Those motors,” she said, “are still in their boxes.”
Bucher has asked county commissioners for a new $11.1 million system, but it hasn’t been ordered because she wants to make sure it complies with a state standard enabling people with disabilities to vote more easily.
RealClearInvestigations points out that numerous other counties have equipment that meets the standard.