St. Lucie Elections Supervisor Gertrude Walker: 'The Right People are in Office'
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Despite being the only county that failed to meet the post-Election Night deadlines to submit vote totals -- and her office being the target of a verbal missile barrage that featured the words “botched” and “disaster” -- St. Lucie County long-serving Supervisor of Elections Gertrude Walker is confident the final numbers submitted to the state are correct.
“I’m confident of the results of the election and the results were accurate and there is no question as to who won that race,” Walker said Thursday after a three-hour closed door session with Secretary of State Ken Detzner.
"The right people are in office," Walker said.
The race in question was the contest between U.S. Rep. Allen West, R-Palm Beach Gardens, and Jupiter Democrat Patrick Murphy, which saw numbers change in the outcome as officials had to refeed ballots through tabulation machines because of several discrepancies.
West has since claimed that Murphy had to “cheat” to win. State Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, called the election process “botched” in St. Lucie County. State Rep. Gayle Harrell, R-Stuart, described the elections office as a “disaster.”
Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, chairman of the state Senate Ethics and Elections Committee, has suggested that removing some supervisors where troubles occurred could be considered by his committee.
Walker, who has been with the elections office for 32 years, placed part of the blame on the manufacturer of the voting equipment for not having an adequate number of memory cards available.
“There are a number of things that can go wrong in an election and you have to have redundancy for every effort,” Walker said.
Detzner said an audit conducted by a team from his office as the ballots were being refed through the machines should be completed next week.
He praised the election staff in St. Lucie, as with the other counties, for their work. But he later would add, "Changes will be made."
The review of Walker’s office concluded a three-day review of the state’s most troubled counties in terms of the 2012 general election -- Lee, Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and St. Lucie.
Supervisors from those counties have complained that the long lines that were prominently featured in the media, people waiting at times more than four hours to vote, could have been cut down by extending the number of early voting days back to 14 from eight and giving counties more flexibility as to where early voting locations could be set up.
Detzner, who has refrained from saying what he has found, did say Thursday the technology in some of the counties may need to be addressed. “I’m going to be looking very closely at whether the technology in the entire state is up to the standards we need,” Detzner said.
“Are the providers of technology providing the service and support that they need to provide?” Detzner said. “Are they working on new versions of software?”
The elections office will also review if the length of the reporting period – four days for unofficial results and the 12-day deadline for official results -- gives counties enough time in case a statewide recount is required.
“Clearly, when you have a recount you have to do it in a reasonable period of time, within the ability of humans to operate,” said Detzner, who commended the efforts of the St. Lucie County Elections Office staff to conduct the refeed.
Walker said her office missed the 12-day deadline by “eight seconds.”
Detzner and members of his staff plan to visit a number of smaller counties next week that didn’t have the problems that cropped up in South Florida.
His report on the counties is expected to be completed for Gov. Rick Scott in late January.
Reach Jim Turner at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (772) 215-9889.