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COLUMN

Happytown: Bogus ballots in Palm Beach County, Dems name Rep. Scott Randolph to replace Earl K. Wood on the ballot

Photo: , License: N/A

Photo: , License: N/A


Like so many abacuses rattling our anxious dreams, we're finding the calculations leading up to Votepocalypse Now more confusing and volatile with each day we cross off our calendars. It's not just the dire repetition of the "47 percent" – a figure that seems applicable to just about every contentious situation we find ourselves in these days – that's troubling us. Moreso, it's that there seems to be some kind of twisted algorithm by which everything operates lately, the sum of which always seems to mean that naobody can count – or count on – anything. At least not in Florida.

This year's Sunshine State slouch toward inevitable recounts and cries of "fraud" has already found its defining narrative. Way down in Palm Beach County, a rotten seed was planted last month when the county supervisor of elections office accidentally sent out some 50,000 misprinted absentee ballots. What started as an eye-roll and a head-scratch in response has grown into a full-court press of national import.

On Oct. 22, elections workers began the dubious (and likely error-laden) task of transposing onto new ballots information from the 27,000 bogus ballots expected to be returned. The screwed-up ballots were missing a header (the one above judge retention, natch), and that would mean that feeding them through counting machines was going to shift every filled-in bubble up by one position. Attorneys for both Democrats and Republicans are predicting a shambles on par with the 2000 election debacle. How are you going divine the voters' intent? The process is getting "more complicated with each passing day," the Palm Beach Post reports, saying that many from both sides are gearing up for "chaos." Oh, dear.

Just as in 2008 with the Republican attacks on ACORN, new FOX-y rumblings of "voter fraud" are being ginned up, specifically as it relates to "boleteros" (ballot-brokers, predominantly in Latino areas of South Florida, who make money by filling in absentee ballots for those unable to do it themselves). Never mind that the practice most recently found its media footing in the Republican spheres of Gov. Rick Scott's 2010 campaign; Florida's relatively unregulated absentee ballot-brokering is eliciting whispers from the left that this could very well be laying the groundwork for another coordinated attack from the right, especially as the election gets closer in time and in ballot counts.

Those counts, at least for now, are looking good for Democrats. Typically a bastion of gray-haired Republicans who can't be bothered to stand in line, this year it was the Democrats who were urging constituents to vote early via absentee ballots. Since Florida has reduced its early-voting time (typically relied on by Democrats) by half, absentee voting is the new "Vote Now" mantra. As of Oct. 21, Florida Democrats had returned 298,563 absentee ballots, compared to Republicans' 337,765 – a 5 percent lead by Republicans (independent voters have turned in 119,007). In 2008, Republicans led Democrats in absentee voting at this point in the election by 16 percent. In Orange County, the numbers appear to heavily favor Democrats: 69,063 Democratic ballots requested to 52,966 by Republicans – an 11 percent lead.

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