Printing error mars Palm Beach County absentee ballots
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Printing error mars Palm Beach County absentee ballots

That means election workers will have to sort through the ballots that voters mail back and duplicate the affected ballots so that they can be run through the tabulation machines that tally the votes.

This latest hiccup adds to a history of Palm Beach County vote-counting problems that gained international attention during the confusion and delayed recounts of the disputed 2000 presidential election.

"This is serious stuff," Palm Beach County Republican Party Chairman Sid Dinerstein said about the absentee ballot error. "This raises all the horror stories."

Bucher blamed the error on a vendor she uses to print absentee ballots.

Absentee voters can still request new ballots. Also, public observers will be on hand to oversee elections workers that duplicate and tabulate the ballots that are received, Bucher said.

"We are doing our very best to try and inform the public … be as transparent as possible," Bucher said. "We move forward."

Bucher uses Arizona-based Runbeck Election Services, which has a facility in Sunrise, to print absentee ballots.

Bucher said her office approved proofs of the absentee ballots that were correct. She said the company then had a computer problem that for about half of the 60,000 ballots resulted in leaving some information off portions of the ballots involving judicial races.

Bucher's office mailed the ballots before noticing the error.

While all the candidates are listed on the affected ballots, titles intended to separate the categories of judicial candidates in some cases are missing, Bucher said. That left out the titles above the races for retention of Florida Supreme Court justices and for the 4th District Court of Appeal.

That changes the location of some races on the ballot and that misalignment means those ballots can't be read by tabulation machines, Bucher said.

Runbeck President Kevin Bannon, in an Oct. 8 letter to Bucher, acknowledged the "incorrect printing." He said the "master ballot repositories were not correctly linked to the printer for the production run."

Duplicating absentee ballots isn't a new process, though it doesn't typically involve this many ballots.

The elections office creates duplicate versions of ballots that members of the military fax to the election's office so that those votes can be registered by tabulation machines. The elections office also duplicates other absentee ballots that can't be read by tabulation machines because they have been damaged or had other problems.

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