The Palm Coast Canvasing Board met this morning for the last time to conduct a legally-required manual count of one precinct’s total votes in the July 27 special election for mayor. As expected, the audit produced no discrepancies.
“The difference across is zero,” Palm Coast City Clerk Virginia Smith said at the end of the audit, meaning that the machine-count result and the hand-count matched, 100 percent. The count had taken less than an hour.
The board consists of Smith and David Valinski, with alternate member Michael Martin. Supervisor of Elections Kaiti Lenhart is not a member of the board, but her office ran the election, the office has custody of the ballots until May 31, 2023–when they will be destroyed–and Lenhart sat with the board to provide any needed guidance.
Actually, 11 people sat around the table, among them former County Commissioner Charlie Ericksen, a veteran of canvassing board service on the county’s side, Janet Sullivan, who heads the local democratic party, and a couple of members of the local Republican Liberty Caucus, a pre-cursive variant of the “Flagler Liberty Coalition,” an extremist group. The coalition/caucus backed Alan Lowe, one of the losing candidates in the mayoral race, has signaled not only displeasure with the results, but also some intentions to contest the numbers.
David Alfin won the election with 36 percent of the vote. Lowe was second with 27, Cornelia Manfre was third with 24. Doug Courtney, Kathy Austrino and Carol Bacha also ran. Manfre is not contesting the results, but rather embracing Alfin’s mayorship (she congratulated him publicly at his first City Council meeting Tuesday evening). Lowe has not publicly contested the results, but he hasn’t discouraged partisans from complaining or raising bogus claims of an irregular election, either.
State law requires every election to be audited, with a hand-count of one chosen precinct in all races. The one chosen today at random by the board was Precinct 14, Palm Coast Bible Church. Three thick stacks of paper ballots, one of them about half a foot thick, sat at the edge of the counting table. Those were the mail-in ballots, the early voting ballots and the Election Day ballots, all separated out according to votes: the Alfin batches grouped together, the Lowe batches grouped, and so on.
The board and Lenhart sat at one end of the table. The two elections office employees assigned the hand-counting were at the other, taking stacks of ballots in turn and counting them. The people in attendance sat or stood nearby in the near-total silence of the room as the counting proceeded. The silence was broken only by the rhythmic sound of paper sheets getting counted, the occasional announcement of the totals, or the counters’ mention of the candidates’ names.
Caucus members stood by, pen and pads in hand, as if on the lookout perfidy, their presence and their pads alone communicating mistrust, unrequited though it was in an office where flawlessness and accuracy has been the order of election days for years. Such audits have come in with 100 percent accuracy for at least a dozen years.
So it was today. By the time the count was done, Alfin–in that particular precinct–still had 442 votes, Lowe 412, Manfre 350, Courtney 96, Austrino 36, and Bacha 20. The numbers matched line-by-line the numbers of the machine count, as Smith enumerated the hand-count results for each candidate, Lenhart tabulated them, and Valinski verified them against the machine count–“That’s correct,” “that’s right,” “correct.” (The exercise evoked one of Chevy Chase’s famous Weekend Update jokes from the early days of Saturday Night Live: “Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead.”)
Both the supervisor’s office and Smith’s have continued to receive public record requests from the likes of those in attendance today, among them Rebeckah Bennett, who identifies herself as the president of a two-month-old Orlando company called Enigma Intel Inc. that looks into election procedures. She’d made her first request within hours of the election, then followed it with three more, including one that would require the supervisor’s office to check every mail-in ballot’s postmark and report which were from out of town. It’s not uncommon for voters to mail in their ballots from elsewhere: it’s how mail-in ballots largely started (as absentee ballots). The request, however, would require some six hours of work, according to Lenhart, and cost about $245. Bennett has also requested the board’s full canvassing book of documents and documentation from a 2016 grant, among other items, while another man in attendance has encouraged partisans to send in requests of their own. The requests have been keeping both Lenhart and Smith busy fulfilling them.
The lugubrious disappointment of the coalition platoon contrasted with the more relaxed atmosphere of the office in general, especially after the count was done. Martin had bought a dozen roses to distribute to board members and staffers at the elections office, and finished handing them out after adjournment, the last one going to Sullivan. “I just wanted to thank everybody,” Martin said. “I had to check with my girlfriend to make sure it wasn’t inappropriate. She’ll get a fresh dozen.”
The canvassing board had convened at 10 a.m. on the dot. It adjourned at 10:58.
“Thank you for a wonderful election,” Smith told Lenhart after the meeting.
The cost of the special election so far is $123,000. Lenhart is expecting two more invoices. “It shouldn’t be more than $130,000,” she said.
Congrats to Our New Mayor.Plz keep P.C. going in right direction
Joseph A Tufano says
they already changed a commercial area into multi unit housign he is already going in the WRONG direction.
The Cult leader is teaching all his Cult members to do this for all future elections. The Cult members have seen the disruption and uncertainty is causes so all the other corrupt cult members will be doing the same thing as their leader tried pulling and failed.
The Cult Republican party is destroying our democracy at any cost.
Tim Sharp says
Your article seems to contain a glaring error. At last night’s council meeting the man in question clearly identified himself as representing the Republican Liberty Caucus. This was even reported by you. So which article is incorrect?
Is that what it is now? Hard to keep up. Thanks for the update.
They didn’t find any bamboo????
Mike Cocchiola says
The dissenters will never be convinced. They will keep disrupting the city and county and make the SOE’s office jump through expensive hoops. Trump showed them the way forward.
This is now a way of life all over America. If the Trumpers lose, they try to wear down election officials with specious claims of irregularities and illegalities. Then comes insatiable requests for more and more information, records, and recounts. This is not democracy in action. It is rebellion.
Tim Shatp says
Just to clarify your position…transparency is rebellion?
Pierre Tristam says
The motive behind all those motley “coalitions”’theatrical shows of pen-and-padded vigilantism has nothing to do with transparency, as Sharp knows well, and everything to do with casting doubt on the legitimacy of the election. It’s January 6 effluence attempting to sewer up the Elections Office. But here he is using the smug tactic of rhetorical innocence to make it seem as if it was just another day in Athenian democracy. What’s transparent is the deflection behind the intellectual dishonesty of the question, and what’s unanswered is Sharp’s own position on the elections system, since he appears to be running for local office while giving aid and comfort to the big lies of Trump’s junta. Be clear on this: those lies won’t be tolerated here under any guise, trolling questions about “transparency” included. Put more simply: don’t come here to tell us the earth is flat.
Tim Sharp says
I will say this publicly.
We’re well aware of our response timeframes. Some of this will resolve itself quickly, but unfortunately, other parts are going to take a ton of FOIA requests which we must feed to the city in a manner in which they are reasonably able the process. I assure you that the matter(s) will remain open until resolved and that our Caucus will always ensure that the integrity of city leadership remains high.
We don’t require the “backing” be it in spirit or finance, of anyone to hold processes and leaders accountable. We’re not looking to make friends or play politics. We ensure transparency and zero corruption. That’s the end goal. Thank you for your comment.
The Truth says
I have never seen such a pathetic group of sore losers as the Trumpsters of 2020 and Lowesters of 2021. You guys are a laughing stock. Your leader Lowe should go back to selling illegal streaming boxes on Nextdoor like he was doing a few years ago.
Tim Sharp says
We feel strongly that restoring confidence to our electoral process is important, thats why we push so hard for transparency. If we find no abnormalities in our local elections then we will gladly compliment the way the election handled.
This has nothing to do with being a “sore loser”. It does have everything to do with engaging in our civic responsibility.
This truly isn’t about Lowe. Alfin could be the winner as could Manfre or Lowe. We merely want to know that our government is transparent and working for us. If that makes up “pathetic” that an insult I will take,
You can try to sugarcoat what you are doing as transparency all you like. I call it a pain inthe ass.
There must be a penalty when idiots make false claims that cost society resources.
This situation is not acceptable.
James M. Mejuto says
People ! This was an election for mayor of a small Florida city called Palm Coast located just below
the state of Georgia and right above Daytona and its famous beach.
However, trump lovers found it necessary to send in a goon squad, Liberty Coalition/Caucus to imitate
their idols, Danko/Mullins and their throw away, a loser ex-president.
As usual the conduct of the election for Mayor was honest and efficient.
James M. Mejuto
So I am reading this thinking good job everyone democracy is working until I got to the part about the roses. When did this turn into the bachelorette rose ceremony and who didn’t make the cut?
Mike Martin says
Rose, I brought a dozen roses and gave them out to all of the Election Office staffers, including 2 male employees, Virginia the City Clerk, and two members of her staff. I had one rose left and I offered it to Pierre but he declined. I then gave it to Janet Sullivan who accepted it. I just wanted to thank everyone for their hard work. I could have brought candy but Katie keeps an enormous stash on hand.
David S. says
Lowe another Trumper Humper YOU LOST PERIOD.
Uggghhhh, my only disappointment is that 2020 had record turnout for voting, that those same voters were no shows in the special election. This is local politics, taxes, where that money will be spent, and still the special election was a virtual no show.
The Trump Cult needs to be held accountable for the lies and propaganda they are spreading around our country. Their fake conspiracy theories are a danger to our country. Trump will not stop until he is forced to stop. It is one thing to have a Democrat and Republican party but it a lot different have a party which he has create to destroy our constitution and our democracy. Once he uses someone for his vengeance needs he will throw them under the bus, just ask Michael Cohen and Rudy Giuliani.
Jessico Bowman says
We are two separate entities. The Flagler Liberty Coalition had zero members in attendance for the Palm Coast Mayoral Special Election recount. I attended as a board member and committee chairwoman of the Republican Liberty Caucus of Florida. My husband, Charles Bowman, is the chairman of the Republican Liberty Caucus of Flagler County. Timothy Sharp is the Vice Chairman of the Republican Liberty Caucus of Flagler County and running for Palm Coast City Commission Seat 4 in 2022. We aren’t the same group. Having some FLC members in the local chapter of the Flagler County RLC doesn’t equate to being an FLC variant. You are also referring to our National Charter when speaking to the Republican Liberty Caucus. We are a 30 year old organization that is the oldest continuously operating Liberty organization. We have both libertarian and Republican membership in our caucus.