RIVIERA BEACH, Fla. - Perhaps one of the biggest surprises of election night came from Palm Beach County, but not because of the showing of the candidates. Unlike in years past, elections officials had all of the county's 792 precincts reporting their results within three and a half hours of the polls closing.
By the numbers, Palm Beach County's election results mirrored what was seen across the state of Florida: Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney with a two-to-one margin over former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Rick Santorum and Ron Paul were trailing behind.
In spite of a long history of election night problems in Palm Beach County, the team at the election tabulation center in Riviera Beach said they felt like winners themselves. The 'hanging chad' has been associated with Palm Beach County elections since the presidential election in November 2000. It has been a difficult task to shake a history of election night delays and debacles.
"We've given it our all," said Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher.
For the first time in a long time, Palm Beach County had nearly all of its 792 precincts reporting completed results within two hours.
"We're a small operation," said Bucher. "We have 42 people, but everybody's hands are on deck and everybody participated and they did an awesome job."
One of the largest changes during this GOP election was the addition of seventeen off-site cartridge reader stations, each of which could send information directly to the county's web-based server and then to the public. As of 11:30 p.m on Tuesday, all 792 precincts had completed their results. Only provisional ballots still needed to be counted.
Previously, ballots were trucked into a Riviera Beach warehouse before anything could be counted. Palm Beach County is the largest county in the state, which means ballots had to travel great distances before they could be tabulated. With the new system, there is less time between when ballots are cast and when ballots are counted.
"We are living up to what every other large county like ours is and that's reporting accurate and timely results and that is what the public wants to see," said Bucher.
The system that was in place on Tuesday evening will serve as the back-up system for November's general election. By that time, the county should have modems in each polling station to transmit information even quicker. The GOP primary was a warm-up for elections officials who will have to deal with higher voter turnout and the new election equipment in November.
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