Sunday, January 20, 2019

Susan Bucher and the City of Lake Worth. What you need to know.

If you’ve already read this blog post from yesterday below is some additional information, e.g., who the members of the City’s election canvassing board are. But for everyone else this blog post today will explain a lot.

And also below is the reason why The Palm Beach Post editorial board will not come to the defense of Bucher: “[I]t remains an offense to democracy.”

That offense being when Bucher took ballots cast in the City of Lake Worth and the editor at Post wrote, “[S]he decided to deep-six them.”

This information today will be very helpful for new and recently-new residents of this City:

If you have always wondered why the relationship between this City and the Palm Beach County of Elections is, well, let’s say not the best of situations please continue reading. After word that Gov. DeSantis suspended Susan Bucher imagine there were more than a few parties last night around town. By both parties. Truly bipartisan.

Why? Because of what happened on August 26th, 2014. Learn more about that below. And then came a resolution:

WHEREAS, on October 6, 2015, the City of Lake Worth approved an amended agreement with the Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections for vote processing equipment use and election services

Briefly, heading into the municipal elections in the City of Lake Worth on March 12th (and run-off if necessary on March 26th) the City’s election canvassing board will consist of City Clerk Debbie Andrea, the internal auditor William Brown, and a retired judge. Lucy Brown has been the most recent judge on the canvassing board.

The City’s canvassing board is tasked with approving or rejecting any ballots that may be questionable such as the signature(s) not matching those on file with the Supervisor of Elections.

Now that you have some background on this topic, let’s continue,

Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher: “Heed state’s advice and stop illegally tossing ballots”, was the headline in Palm Beach Post.

“[I]t remains an offense to democracy. So alarming was it to city leaders in Lake Worth that the commission passed a resolution denouncing [Susan] Bucher’s policy and directed the city’s attorney to get involved.”

Editorial published in The Palm Beach Post on December 2nd, 2014 (see excerpts below).

There was breaking news yesterday from Sun Sentinel reporters Steve Bousquet and Skyler Swisher:

Susan Bucher, the long-time supervisor of elections in Palm Beach County, was suspended Friday by Gov. Ron DeSantis following a series of post-election controversies.

At a news conference at The Historical Museum of Palm Beach, DeSantis said he would follow Secretary of State Mike Ertel’s recommendation to suspend Bucher in order “to right the ship” in Palm Beach County.

“Palm Beach County stands alone in their level of ineptitude” in the election reporting process, DeSantis said.

The City of Lake Worth will not miss Susan Bucher.

See two more excerpts from the editorial in the Post below.

In August 2014 the Lake Worth Neighborhood Road Bond failed by just twenty-five votes.

From a former tabloid in the City came this front page story with some favorable spin for Susan Bucher:

“Susan Bucher Quits” is one of the reasons why that former tabloid no longer exists. A nice spin on the story. Bucher quit before she was shown the door.

Here are two more excerpts from the
Post editorial in 2014.

When it turned out that Palm Beach County elections officials threw away at least 14 legitimate votes in the August primary elections, Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher stubbornly defended the decision.

Yes, those voters had a right to vote, she said. But her workers hadn’t known how to process their provisional ballots and mistakenly mislabeled or left parts of the ballot envelopes blank. Bucher’s solution: to disenfranchise those voters entirely, throwing away their ballots and never counting them. [emphasis added] She brusquely dismissed any questions about the legality of her decision.

Now state elections officials have declared that her actions violated state law, and they have directed Bucher to do more to protect voters’ rights in the future. Bucher, who has declined to comment on the state’s ruling, should heed the advice.

The number of people affected by Bucher’s policy appears to have been small. A Post investigation found that at least 14 people in the city of Lake Worth had their votes tossed because of mistakes made by precinct workers. The number affected countywide is not known because Bucher has not given reporters full access to the provisional ballots.

and. . .

For decades, Florida courts have ruled that conflicts in the law regarding the right to vote generally should be resolved in favor of the voter. In August, Bucher and the county’s canvassing board did the exact opposite.

In Lake Worth, some precinct workers mislabeled or forgot to mark a box on more than a dozen provisional ballots confirming whether voters had voted in the Republican or Democratic primaries. Bucher said this was a problem because state law only allows people registered in a political party to vote in its primary election.

But since voters had been handed the provisional ballots directly by elections officials after identifying themselves, there was no reason to think they had voted in the wrong primary. Still, Bucher argued that the incomplete ballot forms created doubts. Since it would be illegal to look at the ballots directly, she decided to deep-six them. She claimed that doing so was required by the law.

Thankfully, the state Division of Elections sees it differently. In a memo to Bucher last month, the department’s director ruled that just because a canvassing board has doubts about in which precinct or primary a vote was cast, that doubt “does not alter the board’s duty to count the ballot.”

It continued: “If the canvassing board is unable to determine where the provisional ballot was cast and which ballot style was used, the canvassing board should adhere to the statutory requirement that the provisional ballot is to be counted.”

And to rub salt in the wound, the editorial
ends with this paragraph. . .

You’d think Bucher would be thankful for this clarification. But so far she’s remained silent. Instead, she’s sent the city of Lake Worth, which first raised the issue, a $3,440 bill – to cover her own legal fees.

The editor(s) at the Post never specifically advised the City what to do with that bill, but I, and many others, have some good suggestions. One good way would be to treat the bill like the same way those 14 ballots were treated almost 4½ years ago.

On August 26th, 2018, was the four-year anniversary of the LW2020 bond vote.

Due to concerns about sea level rise and street flooding a former commissioner here in this City of Lake Worth, Chris McVoy, PhD, successfully rallied enough votes to defeat the City’s LW2020 road bond in August 2014. That bond vote failed by just twenty-five votes.

The subsequent Neighborhood Road Bond in November 2016 passed by a “whopping 69%”. The very same critics back in 2014 used the same argument again about sea level rise as the reason to vote no on the second bond vote. But that argument didn’t hold any water in 2016.

On the four-year anniversary of the failed LW2020 bond asked readers of this blog to think for a moment how far ahead our City would be right now had that bond passed? Ironically, one of the most vocal opponents of the LW2020 bond later wrote a letter to the editor (see below).

August 2016. The two-year anniversary
of the failed LW2020 bond.

March 20th, 2016.

“Paid Political Advertisement Paid For By

Four-year anniversary.