Is Palm Beach Elections Supervisor Susan Bucher Disenfranchising GOP Absentee Voters?

By: Eric Giunta | Posted: October 11, 2012 7:00 PM
Susan Bucher

Palm Beach County Elections Supervisor Susan Bucher | Credit: Sun Sentinel

Amid reports that Palm Beach County Elections Supervisor Susan Bucher sent out some 60,000 faulty absentee ballots, there's one question no one else seems to be asking -- and which Bucher hasn't mentioned: What did she know, and when did she know it?

The latest elections kerfuffle in a county that has seen more than half a dozen election irregularities since 2000, now involves 60,000 absentee ballots sent out -- all of them missing the proper headings for the merit-retention races of three controversial state Supreme Court justices.

The three justices, Barbara Pariente, R. Fred Lewis, and Peggy Quince, are accused by critics of being left-wing judicial activists, and because absentee voters are traditionally Republican-leaning, this latest error raises concerns that they might miss out on receiving several “NO” votes.

Sunshine State News contacted ballot printer Runbeck Elections Services and spoke to Kevin Bannon, the company’s president. He said earlier this year, Bucher’s office had sent Runbeck faulty drafts and later corrected them, but that a printing error on the part of the company resulted in the defective ballots. Runbeck has taken responsibility for the misprints, and will foot the cost for the measures the supervisor’s office will take to manually count the returns. Recipients of the defective ballots will not be receiving new, corrected ones.

Bucher’s office announced the mistake Wednesday, nearly a week after the ballots began arriving at voters’ residences.

Didn't anybody from the SOE office check for errors as soon as the ballots came back from the printer?

Did Bucher’s office know the ballots were defective before they were mailed out? If not, then why weren’t the ballots reviewed beforehand, especially given the fact that mistakes had already been made in the drafting process?

No matter. A number of political camps, including President Obama's, is looking at the ballot mess, attempting to gauge its effect on their candidates.

Bucher’s office isn’t talking, at least not to Sunshine State News, which left her several unreturned messages before Thursday evening.

For at least the last 12 years, the county’s Democrat-managed elections office has distinguished itself for being among the nation’s most notoriously scandal-ridden.

Under supervisor Theresa LePore, Palm Beach County was at the center of the 2000 presidential election “hanging chad” controversy. Her successor, Arthur Anderson, accumulated numerous mishaps: leaving an entire local election off of a 2006 ballot; causing numerous elections delays, including 3,500 missing ballots in a 2008 judicial race; raising questions over how the office spent federal money; and admitting in May, four years after he was voted out of office, that he had the county purchase optical scan ballot systems after knowing of serious concerns raised by California’s secretary of state about their defectiveness.

Bucher’s tenure has seen more of the same:
  • of all 67 counties in the 2010 general election, Palm Beach was the last to process its absentee ballots, 10 days after Election Day;
  • a week after that election, 500 unopened absentee ballots were found in a box at the election tabulation center in Riviera Beach;
  • in March, Bucher’s office announced her office’s voting equipment had completely scrambled the results of local elections in Wellington;
  • and her office is currently the subject of a lawsuit by state Rep. Mack Bernard, a business-friendly Democrat particularly well-liked by state and county Republicans, who is accusing Bucher’s office of improperly discarding at least 48 absentee ballots which, if counted, might have won him his party’s August primary.

“My concern right now is whether this is all just going to be an excuse to invalidate absentee ballots,” says J.C. Planas, Bernard’s attorney, in an interview with Sunshine State News. “Do I think that this goes toward my argument that Palm Beach County is not following all of the elections rules? Yes, I do.”

Planas was unwilling to accuse Bucher of outright fraud, but he said he does find this string of mishaps troubling, especially since they tend to disproportionately affect Republican or conservative-leaning voters.

“More Republicans than Democrats vote absentee; to give you an example, [GOP presidential candidate] John McCain won the absentee ballots four years ago in Palm Beach County,” he says. “You have to wonder whether this is an attempt to throw the baby out with the bathwater and invalidate absentee ballots based on this issue [of the misprints].

“I can’t question motives, but you have to wonder just how many things [the supervisor of elections office] is getting wrong,” he continues. “I think that’s a big part of the issue. If Bucher’s got these ballots wrong, and she got the election in Wellington wrong, then she’s probably interpreting the law wrong [in Mack Bernard’s lawsuit].”

Faulty ballots are not the only troubles facing Bucher’s office. She is currently facing a race discrimination lawsuit by a former employee, an African-American hiree from previous supervisor Anderson’s administration.

The lawsuit says that Bucher's treatment of African-American employees was based on "racial antipathy against her African-American predecessor and employment decisions and selections he made." It claims non-African-Americans were treated more favorably.

The suit was filed just a couple of weeks after a political consultant from one of Florida’s major bipartisan consulting firms suggested to Sunshine State News that state Rep. Mack Bernard and at least one other Haitian legislator might be the victims of a “political ethnic cleansing" by state Democratic Party officials because of the two representatives' voting record in favor of businesses and school choice. 


Reach Eric Giunta at egiunta@sunshinestatenews.com or at (954) 235-9116. 

Comments (5)

dick g
8:02AM OCT 12TH 2012
how do we get rid the this kind of trash
6:12AM OCT 12TH 2012
Until you can prosecute voter misinformation you will get crap like this from crap like that. It seems that mistakes always are in favor of Democrats in Palm Beach, Broward and Dade Counties, the 3 Democrat strongholds in South Florida.

The company admitting the mistake does not relieve the incompetents in checking and proofreading the ballots prior to sending them out.
5:21AM OCT 12TH 2012
Frank, I agree with you. I have never ever read this paper before and this story seemed really one-sided and biased. I am a registered independant and even I could see that. Why wasn't the possibility that there could have been GOP taint involved. They were hired by the States Election board which last I checked is Republican. Also, the Republicans have been heavily touting voting absentee balloting which is the biggest form of voter fraud. I just read Mitt Romney advocating getting those absentee ballots on one of his sites. Maybe this story should be brought to the attention of a "Major Newspaper or News Affiliate" who will do a little more research so the people of Florida will definitively know what's going on.
6:17AM OCT 12TH 2012
Susan Bucher had the responsibility to make sure the ballots are correct. It was the final quality control and it demonstrates that Susan Bucher did not do her job. The company admitting to the mistake does not relieve the responsibility of Susan Bucher's office to inspect and approve before mailing them out.
11:31PM OCT 11TH 2012
Yes, we knew this site couldn't resist the Susan Bucher bashing once again, even though the company has said they screwed up.

Yes, and we knew you'd NEVER cover the Republican voter fraud she discovered recently.

Selective, partisan journalism.


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