Secretary of State Ken Detzner to visit St. Lucie, other counties over their election problems

Touring counties that 'underperformed' in election

Florida's Secretary of State plans to visit St. Lucie County Supervisor of Elections Gertrude Walker next week in a tour of counties that "underperformed" during this year's election.

Secretary of State Ken Detzner told the Senate Committee on Ethics and Elections he will visit Walker's office next week to understand what went wrong this election. At the Tuesday meeting in Tallahassee, Detzner told senators that St. Lucie, Miami-Dade, Lee, Broward and Palm Beach counties are on his "underperforming" list. Detzner also will visit Hillsborough County, but he didn't consider it underperforming.

Detzner specifically mentioned St. Lucie only to clarify it was the lone Florida county that didn't report its results "accurately or timely." None of the senators on the committee cover St. Lucie, and no one on the panel queried Detzner about St. Lucie in particular.

"When you look at underperformance, it could be an administrative issue, could be an issue about judgment, about turnout, could be an issue about locations of the early voting sites," Detzner told the committee. "It could be manpower issues and it could be technology. All of these issues encompass the fact-finding effort that we're going to go about."

Detzner said his staff will prepare a report on St. Lucie sometime in January on their findings from the visit. Detzner added that he will meet in mid-December with the Florida State Supervisors of Elections Association, which is led by Martin County Supervisor of Elections Vicki Davis.

Sen. Jack Latvala, a Clearwater Republican heading the Senate panel, said he is inviting Walker and the other four underperforming counties' supervisors to speak to the committee at a Jan. 14 meeting in Tallahassee. Latvala said he will also invite some high performing supervisors to share success stories.

The Division of Elections, under the Department of State, has not yet produced a different report it has promised. Three state elections officials audited St. Lucie for several days in mid-November, including the weekend when St. Lucie recounted all its early votes.

The only audit feedback came from David Drury, head of the Division of Elections Bureau of Voting Systems Certifications. Drury made a "personal" recommendation that the St. Lucie canvassing board rerun ballots from the five early voting days that hadn't been recounted.

Walker first ordered a partial recount and admitted thousands of votes were either not counted or counted twice. She has said the partial retabulations of 16,275 votes from the first three days of the month remedied the situation, and the 21,000 votes from the other five days had no issues. The memory cards in the vote tabulating machines had issues, she has said.

The following weekend, the canvassing board voted to rerun all the early ballots after finding 306 votes that were never counted. The board did not finish on time to report updated results to the Department of State.

However, the new results would not have affected results in the high-profile District 18 battle between U.S. Rep. Allen West, R-Palm Beach Gardens, and Jupiter Democrat Patrick Murphy. The state used the results St. Lucie reported before the recount — Murphy won by 1,904 votes, or 0.58 percent across Martin, St. Lucie and northern Palm Beach counties. With the recount, Murphy would have picked up 274 votes, while West would have gained 32 votes.

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