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Yahoo! News Tue, Nov 12, 2002

Florida Finds 103,000 'Lost' Votes
Thu Nov 7, 1:20 PM ET

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (Reuters) - Just when Florida finally seemed to have carried out a flub-free election, supervisors in one county discovered they had failed to count more than 103,000 ballots in some tallies.

Authorities said the blunder in Broward County did not change the outcome of any races in Tuesday's election, which had been hailed as a procedural triumph for the state where voting problems two years earlier forced a five-week delay in George W. Bush's election as president.

The error did trim by 13,815 votes the margin of victory that Republican Gov. Jeb Bush, the president's younger brother, scored over Democratic challenger Bill McBride.

The error was discovered on Wednesday and corrected in time to certify accurate tallies to the state by Thursday's deadline, elections officials said. They blamed a programming error in tabulating absentee votes and votes cast before Election Day. The 34,000 English-language votes cast before Tuesday were tabulated as if they came from one precinct, but the number of ballots exceeded the limit for a single precinct. The ballots were stored in the electronic voting system, but not counted in preliminary totals for any of the races or included in the overall voter turnout number. Another 70,000 absentee ballots and Spanish-language ballots from the early voting were counted in individual races. But an operator error dropped them from the turnout total, making it look like the county had just a 35 percent turnout. The correct figure was 45 percent, still below the statewide average of 53 percent.

Supervisors discovered the error when they saw the number of votes recorded in the governor's race exceeded the reported total for ballots cast. Broward County, the Fort Lauderdale area in southeast Florida, was a battleground in the state's 2000 recount war, after which Florida banished punch-card ballots. Broward alone spent $17.2 million replacing them with electronic touch-screen voting machines. But poll workers were inadequately trained and September's primary election was marred by late openings, long lines and voting chaos there and in neighboring Miami-Dade County. It took a week to figure out that McBride had defeated former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno (news - web sites) to win the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. Florida had seemed to have pulled off a flawless election on Tuesday, until the Broward problem came to light. "It's another screw-up and I'm not satisfied this is correct," Broward Republican leader George Lemieux told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.