Absentee ballot forms go missing in Florida county

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The Independent US

Election officials were last night sending out absentee ballots to voters in one of Florida's most keenly contested counties to replace thousands that have gone missing in the run-up to Tuesday's poll.

Election officials were last night sending out absentee ballots to voters in one of Florida's most keenly contested counties to replace thousands that have gone missing in the run-up to Tuesday's poll.

Broward County voters blocked phone lines claiming they had not received forms, echoing problems with the 2000 presidential election in the area.

Election workers and the postal service blamed each other as the Broward County elections supervisor Brenda Snipes moved to solve the problem.

Attention focused on a batch of 58,000 Broward ballots given to the postal service on 7 and 8 October. Though some voters have completed and returned ballots mailed on those days, hundreds of others have called to complain that their forms have not arrived.

"This isn't a blame game," Ms Snipes told The Miami Herald. "What we're concentrating on is getting the ballots to the voters." Ms Snipes was named for the job by Governor Jeb Bush after the 2000 elections supervisor quit during the vote recount and her replacement was suspended for bungling.

Florida decided the 2000 election. George W Bush, the governor's brother, won the state by just 537 votes. Broward County favoured the Democrats in the last election.

Ms Snipes estimated she would re-send no more than 20,000 ballots, even though about 76,000 ballots sent by her office have not been returned.

Broward County commissioners assigned 40 new workers to phone duty at the election office and early voting sites, where voters have been queueing for up to two hours at touch-screen voting machines. People who requested absentee ballots can always vote early or on election day, officials said.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement said that it had investigated the 7-8 October mailings and found no criminal violations.

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