While most of Florida's elections supervisors are working on the 2004 balloting, Holmes County's supervisor may have to revisit the fiasco still simmering from 2000.
Tuesday an appeals court ruled the 2000 sheriff's race is still officially undecided. For a brief moment, it seemed to be over. Sheriff Dennis Lee's five-vote win over his 2000 opponent John Braxton stood by order of Judge Michael Miller, but a new court ruling means it's not over.
Sheriff Lee is now in the odd position of defending his win in 2000 while trying to win in 2004. It hasn't been fun, and it certainly hasn't been cheap. Lee has spent almost $70,000 in attorney costs, but he says he is glad about one aspect of the latest ruling.
They did say that they felt that there was no gross negligence in the election process, which means that they felt that the election system itself was done fair and proper. Even so, the new ruling may bring other headaches. Forty-two previously rejected or spoiled ballots must now be considered individually by judge miller.
"We're in the middle of another election year. We have a presidential preference March 9th, we're getting ready for an August Primary, November General and we're trying to concentrate on 2004, now we're going to have to go back to 2002," says Debbie Wilcox Morris, Supervisor of Elections.
But not everything that’s come out of the legal battle over the 2000 race has been bad. Supervisor of Elections Debbie Wilcox Morris says the experience has led to some improvements. Improvements like getting back ballots that the voting machine can read.
Morris says she's also working on reducing human error from poll workers.
"Well even though those little things don't change the outcome of an election, it puts doubt out there or can cause a problem if it's not done."
John Braxton was not available for comment.