Three people observe the teams, a Republican, a Democrat and someone with no party affiliation. If observers have any complaints about the way a ballot is being duplicated by the teams, they raise their hand and explain their concerns to an elections worker. If the dispute cannot be resolved, the ballot is placed in an envelope to be reviewed later by the canvassing board.
Detzner had two observers from the Florida Division of Elections office watch on Monday, but both had returned by Thursday, Cate said.
“We went down there to make sure the process went smoothly and that it was transparent,” Cate said. “Things were moving along and we’re confident that these voters who are having their ballots duplicated will have their votes counted accurately.”
Cate said he expects all absentee ballots to be duplicated and tallied by Nov. 6. Once the polls close at 7 p.m., Bucher’s office has 45 minutes to report the absentee results. If they’re not done, Bucher’s office must provide the state with updates every 30 minutes until the counting is done.
Although it sounds complex, the process drew praise from elections experts.
“They do get kudos for transparency,” said Michael D. Martinez, a professor of political science at the University of Florida who has studied electoral behavior. “There’s always the potential for error, with any process that you come up with, but this one sounds really fair.”
And fairness matters more in a case like this than anything else, said Foley.
“As long as Democrats and Republicans and other members of the public can watch the process, then I think that’s an adequate level of transparency,” Foley said. “There’s no process out there that’s error prone. But having more eyeballs on the process, from both sides of the competition, you’ll significantly reduce the errors.”
Dinerstein said the problem with the absentee ballot highlights problems with how the office is administered under Bucher, who is not running for re-election this year. Although Bucher is blaming the vendor for the error, Dinerstein said she or her office approved the proofs that were printed and sent to voters.
But in the grand scheme of swaying the election, Dinerstein said he is worried about other issues.
“Palm Beach County does have an image to uphold,” he quipped. “But how many times can lightening strike?”
Tampa Bay Times staff researcher John Martin contributed to this report.