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How Many More Susan Bucher Sci-Fi Thrillers Can Palm Beach County Tolerate?

By: Nancy Smith | Posted: March 20, 2012 3:55 AM
 Nancy Smith 150x207

Nancy Smith

How does a computer, all on its own, give the wrong order of election results?

Palm Beach County's computer did.

All you have to do is ask Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher. She swears that's what happened in last Tuesday's Wellington election when results of a mayor's race and two council seats were scrambled like eggs on a griddle.

The races on the ballot in Wellington were mayor, council seat 1 and council seat 4.
 
Bucher said the computer system -- all by itself, like the computer in the creepy 1983 movie "War Games" -- listed the races in this order: seat 1, seat 4 and mayor. She said the correct order should have been mayor, seat 1 and seat 4.

That means voters who thought they were casting a ballot for the mayor, actually voted for a council seat 1 candidate; those who voted for a council seat 1 candidate didn't realize they were selecting for council seat 4; as for the mayor -- he got the council seat 4 votes.

Bucher told an incredulous crowd gathered Monday at the Riviera Beach tabulation office that the computer system "auto-generated" the order of the results. And, of course, whenever Bucher is involved, you know you're going to hear someone in her office call her muck-up "a never-seen-before phenomenon."

This time she called it herself. "Unprecedented," she said.

Whatever it was -- the work of an unlucky supervisor of elections office or a roundly incompetent one, you be the judge -- it's not going to be easy or cheap to put this humpty-dumpty back together again. Results of the election in Wellington, as in all 16 cities and towns that voted March 13, have already been certified. And with no case law dictating how to proceed when a declared-finished race is found to be wrong, legal minds far and wide are gathering as we speak.

Sadly, there are victims in all this -- the men and women who ran for office in good faith, and the community of Wellington itself.  Who won what office? Were the winners declared incorrectly? Does anybody know? Bring on those lawyers, Susan, I have a feeling you're going to need every one of them.

Wellington Village Clerk Awilda Rodriguez told me Monday she hasn't the foggiest idea how the mess will get sorted. "I've certainly never seen anything like this," she said. "We're waiting for attorneys to take a look at election law to see how best to address the situation."

For now, anyway, Wellington's scrambled-egg winners are Bob Margolis in the mayor's race over Darell Bowen, by 3,341 votes to 2,411; in council seat 1, Shauna Hostetler over John Greene, 2,946 votes to 2,877; and in seat 4, Al Paglia over Matt Willhite, 2,956 votes to 2,745.

The story of gross incompetence in the Palm Beach supervisor of elections office during Bucher's reign isn't new. Remember, we reported that --

  • of all 67 counties in the 2010 general election, Palm Beach was the absolute bottom-of-the-barrel dead last in processing its absentee ballots;
  • and, in November 2010, a week after the election, 500 unopened absentee ballots were found in a box at the election tabulation center in Riviera Beach;
  • and, after the Jan. 31, 2012, GOP Presidential Preference Primary, when somebody in her office credited Palm Beach County with a whopping 99.89 percent voter turnout on the state website.

Do the citizens of Palm Beach County simply believe they can't do any better than Susan Bucher? Do they think that after 2000, when Theresa LePore immortalized the place with the butterfly ballot, and after that, when Arthur Anderson left an entire election off the ballot, caused numerous elections delays, including 3,500 missing ballots in a 2008 judicial race, and raised questions over how the office spent federal money ... do they really think maybe Bucher is the best of a bad lot and that's good enough? Let's hope not.

This Wellington incident should spell the end of the road for Susan Bucher. It really should.

As I've said before, Palm Beach is the largest county in the state of Florida, and third in population. It is also -- along the coast, anyway -- the wealthiest, the most sophisticated and arguably the most cultured. It deserves a top-rate supervisor of elections.

It's time to clean the office up, starting at the top.

Reach Nancy Smith at nsmith@sunshinestatenews.com or at (850) 727-0859.




Comments (10)

RobWPB
11:05AM AUG 14TH 2012
Apologize... How can you apologize to someone with a track record related to the following:

◦of all 67 counties in the 2010 general election, Palm Beach was the absolute bottom-of-the-barrel dead last in processing its absentee ballots;
◦and, in November 2010, a week after the election, 500 unopened absentee ballots were found in a box at the election tabulation center in Riviera Beach;
◦and, after the Jan. 31, 2012, GOP Presidential Preference Primary, when somebody in her office credited Palm Beach County with a whopping 99.89 percent voter turnout on the state website.

???? Answers? Who does Susan Bucher blame for these screw ups? Hmm? Anyone?
Frank
2:08PM MAR 24TH 2012
NANCY - You owe Susan Bucher a personal apology for this article. Dominion Voting Services has admitted that the Wellington vote problem WAS a sofware problem, not the Elections Supervisor's fault. She caught the problem, you were quick to condemn. Apologize (and how about doing an equal length article admitting your rush to judgement).
Frank
11:23AM MAR 20TH 2012
Yes, Nancy, you world renowed computer expert - of course you must be right. I mean, it's not like computer experts have previously warned about this very type of potential problem in the past, or showed other possibilities by hacking into election software to show it was possible. And, of course, Susan Bucher must have done this all by herself (i.e. falsified the results) and tried to hide it, correct. Oh that's right, it WAS her office's audit process that discovered the problem. Perhaps like an Emily Litella editorial, you should just end your piece with a smile and a little quieter "NEVERMIND".
BM
11:09AM MAR 20TH 2012
Nancy,
When I first started using computers about 100 years ago I was told something very relevant to today's opinion piece.

I was cussing up a storm at the computer while talking to a geek friend of mine. He told me don't blame the computer it only does what the operator tells it to do.

Nuff said.
Frank
1:07PM APR 20TH 2012
So whenever Windows freezes up on you, it's all your fault and not Microsoft's, correct?

Nuff said.
vj
9:09AM MAR 20TH 2012
In the corporate world, they use batch controls to track and validate group totals in computers. You also run a test batch through new software to ensure it works as expected. It sounds like they don't do that or they would have caught it. The article is not clear whether the software came from machine vendor, the State, or whether the elections dept. didn't configure it correctly. There is a concept called field matching, where you go through a process to visually match source fields with output data fields, and it seems they don't do that either. I was a Corporate Internal Audit Director and a Certified Information Systems auditor, plus I write a blog ( FiscalRangers.com ) on local government fiscal fiascos in Lake County, FL and the need for an advanced level of computer knowledge now seems to exceed the capability of many elected officials. You almost need to require a degree in database administration to get people who can cope with government records automation, and understand advanced procedures to ensure data accuracy.
Howard Sher
9:10PM MAY 7TH 2012
This could also be the result of an error in a hacking program installed in the machines to fix the election results. This would be similar to the program written by Clint Curtis for Tom Feeney that was used in the 2004 election. Google Clint Curtis testifies for congressional committe on voter fraud to hear what he says about getting programs into these systems undetected that then erase themselves after the election.
Suggestion
11:10AM MAR 20TH 2012
Suggestion: I think Palm Beach County needs to hire VJ! What a mess. Every single election, we hear about Palm Beach County.

What is the problem down there?
RobWPB
11:04AM AUG 14TH 2012
The problem here is that we are split virtually 50/50 when it comes to voting. That allows the lawyers to argue and fight over ever single vote cast and as to its legitimacy. Sad really. But lawyers come down here and sit right at the voting stations and watch every single vote... pathetic.
Robert Lloyd
1:24PM MAR 22ND 2012
>>What is the problem down there?<<

Demographics

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