ST. LUCIE COUNTY, Fla. - St. Lucie County Supervisor of Elections Gertrude Walker asked the Board of County Commissioners Tuesday night for almost $300,000 in unexpected 2012 election costs.
When asked why she was requesting such a high sum, Walker responded that the budget was set so far in advance of the actual election, there is bound to be unexpected expenses incurred.
"When we plan our budget, we start that in January, February, March," Walker said. "There's no way we can know how long the ballot, or how many pages we're going to have."
Mary Burton, a Fort Pierce resident who protested against the supervisor's office during the controversial election period, said Walker has 32 years experience on this job, so Burton questions why the Supervisor couldn't have predicted these costs.
"I find it very difficult to understand such an exorbitant amount, that maybe an audit is required of her department," said Burton.
The five commissioners unanimously approved Walker's request, and agreed with Walker that perhaps not enough money was the root of the problem.
"My budget's been cut over $200,000, so when you look at $200,000 and you look at the largest election you're going to have, with all of the additional costs, that's why I'm asking for that money," Walker explained.
With $52,000 of Walker's request for legal fees, Burton said the county should not be responsible for that portion.
"That's something she should have to pay for herself," Burton said.
Walker said she sought to protect the county's reputation with an attorney, when accusations of fraud came after the hotly-contested Allen West/Patrick Murphy election results.
"I think it's so important to have an attorney so that you're not behind the eight-ball when charges come," said Walker.
Burton said more money does not guarantee future problem will be avoided, and she wants to see better results next time.
"You know, a lot of it was human error," said Burton. "I don't think money could have cured that."
Walker said the biggest problem was malfunctioning equipment, and she would like to see updates made on the outdated voting machines-- and that costs money.
"We wouldn't even be talking about the election if the equipment hadn't malfunctioned," said Walker. "For 32 years, we've had excellent elections here in St. Lucie County. But with that kind of catastrophic equipment failure, you're treading water."
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