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Absentee ballot directive draws more heat for Scott

Tuesday, November 26th, 2013 by John Kennedy

Gov. Rick Scott’s administration drew fire Tuesday over a directive from the state’s elections chief which limits how absentee ballots can be turned in by voters.

Secretary of State Ken Detzner has ordered county elections supervisors not to allow the return of absentee ballots to any place other than a supervisor’s office.

Pinellas County, home to a contested congressional race featuring former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink, is a county that extensively uses drop-off boxes for absentee ballots.

Detzner defended the move as an attempt to assure uniformity in the state’s election system.

“The directive issued does not change anything in the law, but is a clarification of existing law that was initiated by questions from supervisors of elections that prompted us to address this on a statewide level,” Detzner said Tuesday.

Democrats and voter groups, however, cried foul.

“Given Gov. Scott’s track record of voter suppression, I am disappointed but not surprised,” said Rep. Janet Cruz, D-Tampa, a member of the House Ethics & Elections Subcommittee.

PBC open for voting, FL Dems file lawsuit over early voting

Sunday, November 4th, 2012 by Dara Kam

Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher is allowing voters to cast absentee ballots in person today and tomorrow although the early voting period ended yesterday.

And Florida Democrats have filed a federal lawsuit against Bucher, Miami-Dade County and Broward County elections supervisors and Secretary of State Ken Detzner. The lawsuit asks a judge force the three county supervisors to allow absentee voting in person until Tuesday’s election because of long lines.

Bucher said she was aware of the lawsuit and is keeping her offices open today and tomorrow to allow voters to request and cast absentee ballots at the counter. She said the main office will be open today until 5 p.m. and tomorrow from 7 a.m to 7 p.m.

“Our last early voter voted at 2:30 in the morning and people were waiting outside the office when I got there at 7:30 this morning,” Bucher said this morning. “The voters deserve to vote and since we have the ability to allow them to vote an absentee ballot at the counter, I think that’s the right thing to do.”

Voting by absentee ballot at the counter until Election Day is permissible under Florida law.

“Voting with an absentee ballot began weeks before ‘early voting’ and will continue until 7pm Tues. MiamiDade isn’t unique or outside the law,” Detzner’s spokesman Chris Cate said in a Twitter message in response to a flurry of traffic about the early voting situation in Florida.

The Florida Democratic Party filed the lawsuit against Detzner and the supervisors in federal court in Miami seeking an emergency injunction to force Bucher, Broward County elections supervisor Brenda Snipes and Miami-Dade County elections supervisor Penelope Townsley to accept the absentee ballots and let voters know their offices are open.

Voters in the three counties have had to wait up to seven hours to cast their ballots, lawyers for the FDP wrote in the lawsuit.

“The extensive lines are the result of polling facilities that are inadequate to meet the needs of Florida electors during the early voting period,” the lawsuit alleges.

Monroe County Supervisor of Elections Harry Sawyer asked Detzner to extend early voting to accommodate the lines of people waiting for ballots, but Detzner said that would require a state of emergency.

“Fortunately, no such situation currently exists in the state of Florida,” Detzner wrote in an e-mail to Sawyer yesterday.

The demand for early voting – shrunk from 14 to eight days in an election overhaul passed by lawmakers last year – has created a chaotic situation in Florida. Some supervisors kept their offices open beyond the early voting period but are only accepting provisional ballots. Bucher and Townsley are allowing voters to request early ballots at the counter, but Snipes is only accepting absentee ballots already requested, according to news reports.

Justice Department demand voter purge data from 9 counties, including Palm Beach, in lawsuit against Scott

Thursday, August 9th, 2012 by Dara Kam

Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher was among nine county elections supervisors subpoenaed by the U.S. Department of Justice as part of its lawsuit against Gov. Rick Scott’s administration over his non-U.S. citizen voter purge.

The demand for documents and other information is part of the discovery process in the lawsuit, scheduled to drag on past the Nov. 6 general election and into next year. The subpoenas went out to supervisors in Bay, Broward, Collier, Hillsborough, Lee, Miami Dade, Orange, Palm Beach, and Pinellas counties.

It’s unclear why Bucher, who she said received the subpoena on July 31, was included in the dragnet. She never did anything with the list of 115 Palm Beach County voters flagged as potential non-citizens by Secretary of State Ken Detzner’s office in March.

But the Justice Department lawyers demanded all documents or information related to the voter purge, dreamed up by Scott and launched by Detzner this spring. Detzner’s office sent out a list of about 2,600 potential non-citizens to the state’s 67 supervisors of elections, instructing the local officials to send letters to the flagged voters and ask them to prove they are citizens. Bucher and many other supervisors balked after some elections officials found the lists included the names of voters who had become naturalized citizens or were even born in the U.S. In one highly publicized case, a Broward County World War II Bronze Medal hero was identified as potentially being ineligible to vote.

Bucher is sending a letter to the DOJ telling them she didn’t participate in the voter purge and is handing over a copy of the disk containing the list of 115 Palm Beach County voters provided to her by Detzner, she said. The DOJ asked the supervisors to give them the information by Aug. 15, the day after Florida’s primary on Tuesday.


Scott administration says 86 non-citizens removed from voting rolls since purge started

Friday, June 8th, 2012 by Dara Kam

Eighty-six voters who are likely not U.S. citizens – including one Palm Beach County woman – have been removed from the rolls as a result of Gov. Rick Scott’s controversial non-citizen purge now being challenged in federal court, according to Department of State records released today.

And more than half of those appear to have voted, the records showed.

The 86 voters make up about one-third of one percent of the 2,600 voters flagged as potentially ineligible by Scott’s administration.

But it’s unclear how many of those voters removed since the problematic purge started in April were actually included in the list distributed to elections supervisors by Secretary of State Ken Detzner.

Greenacres voter Anabilil Gomez was removed from the voting rolls on May 3, the records show. But she was not on Detzner’s list. And Detzner’s spokesman Chris Cate said it is unknown yet whether Gomez or others were on the master list of 182,000 from which the April batch was culled and which officials have not yet released to the public.

Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher said Gomez likely came to the elections office and asked to be removed. Bucher never sent letters to the suspect voters notifying them that they needed to prove their citizenship as Detzner’s office ordered her and the 66 other county supervisors to do.

“It looks like she came to the counter and told us because we sent her a voter card in December 11. The only way we would have that information is if she was telling us because we never sent the letters out,” Bucher said, adding that others came to her office “trying to give us copies of their documents” to ensure they would not be removed from the rolls.

It is a felony for ineligible people, including non-citizens, to register or vote in Florida.

Bucher said her office sent Gomez a voter registration card in December but the woman had not voted in any election.

But state department officials said 46 others on the list of 86 have voted, including about a dozen whose voting records pre-date 2006. More than half of the voters on the list were registered in Lee county.

Scott’s staff trumpeted the revelation as a vindication of the purge process, blasted by Democrats and civil rights organizations.

“As you already know, but I insist you point out, not a single US citizen has been removed from the voter rolls as a result of the state’s inquiry. But we now know with absolute certainty that a growing number of non-US citizens aren’t just illegally registered to vote here in Florida, they are also casting ballots and influencing election outcomes,” Scott spokesman Brian Burgess wrote in an e-mail. “The State of Florida has a legal obligation to do what it can to protect the votes of its citizens, and that includes preventing never-eligible, non-citizens from casting ballots and diluting the votes of eligible, law-abiding voters.”

State elections chief Ken Detzner on Palm Beach County election fiasco

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012 by Dara Kam

Secretary of State Ken Detzner, Florida’s top election official, said his aides are on the ground in Palm Beach County trying to figure out what went wrong with last week’s Wellington elections in which elections supervisor Susan Bucher‘s office certifiedtwo wrong winners in local races.

Detzner, who took over the post last month, said his office is working with Bucher and Dominion Voting Systems, the vendor of the election voting and tabulation equipment Bucher blames for the erroneous results.

“We have people on the ground in Palm Beach working with the supervisor’s office to evaluate what the problem is, number one. That’s the first thing we have to do,” Detzner said Tuesday morning. “Keep in mind there were 16 municipal elections. Of those, one election appears to have had a problem…The question is to determine where the problem was. And until I hear back from my people, we’re not going to make any conclusions or any ideas of what happened until I hear back from them.”

Detzner, whose office certifies all elections hardware and software, said the Dominion technology is in use in Indian River County was recently purchased by Duval County.

The Palm Beach County mishap has sparked a political and legal upheaval in the village of Wellington and appears to be unprecedented since on overhaul in state election laws – in part in response to the county’s infamous “butterfly ballots – in the aftermath of the protracted 2000 recount.

Detzner called the Wellington incident – announced by Bucher Monday – isolated and said he remains confident in the integrity of the November presidential elections.

“Any time there is an irregularity in an election it would cause some concern. Again, I have to look back at there were 16 municipal elections. Fifteen of those went well. There was a problem with one. So I’m going to be reviewing the process, the certification, whether or not there was human error, whether or not it was a software glitch, what it is, and we’ll make corrective actions going forward,” he said. “But I’m confident if you’ve seen the primary results, the primary election results, we did not have any problems. SO I’m confident we have good systems. The supervisors are doing their job. And I’m confident that this might be a very isolated situation and we’ll take corrective action.”

Detzner said it was premature to anticipate any action against Bucher or her office.

“I wouldn’t suggest that in any way until I know what the problem is. That would be very wrong for me to do that,” he said.

Gov. Rick Scott, who appointed Detzner last month, said he was aware of the Wellington problem but not the specifics of what appeared to have gone wrong.

“I feel comfortable that our secretary of state is going to do a good job,” Scott said before this morning’s Cabinet meeting.

When asked if he was concerned about possible election problems in November, Scott said: “I worry about everything. I do worry about hurricanes and wildfires a little more than other things.”

Developing: Another Palm Beach County election glitch?

Monday, March 19th, 2012 by George Bennett


“We have a computer system that never failed like this before,” Palm Beach County Elections Supervisor Susan Bucher said this afternoon as the elections office tries to sort out a potential mix-up in the results from last week’s hotly contested municipal elections in Wellington.

Our Jennifer Sorentrue is on the scene and posted this initial report.

Among the races in question: Bob Margolis‘ 58 percent blowout win over Mayor Darrell Bowen.

Margolis ran for elections chief in 2008, losing to Bucher.

Keep watching for updates on this story.

Talk of changing August primary date draws static

Monday, January 23rd, 2012 by John Kennedy

An effort to move the date of Florida’s August primary is drawing mixed reviews among lawmakers and elections officials.

Citing concerns and questions, Senate Ethics & Elections Committee Chairman Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, R-Miami, postponed action by a subcommittee Monday on his bill (SB 1596) that would postpone the primary a week, from its scheduled Aug. 14, to Aug. 21.

Diaz de la Portilla said the proposed later date, which would also delay candidate qualifying a week until June 11-15, is aimed at giving those running in redistricted House, Senate and congressional districts more time to decide their political candidacies.

But the delay causes a host of other problems, according to some elections supervisors. Ron Labasky, lobbyist for the Florida Association of Supervisors of Election, said 22 of the 67 supervisors opposed the move — with some saying it could force them to rework contracts for polling places or cause personnel problems.

In Hillsborough County, elections officials have balked because the delay would push the primary election close to the Republican National Convention in Tampa. Security for the convention is expected to cause wide-ranging traffic problems in the city’s downtown area, Labasky told the committee.

Palm Beach County Elections Supervisor Susan Bucher is among those opposing the primary delay, saying she’s having enough trouble educating voters on new laws, new districts and revised requirements without throwing in a date change.


Defying history, Palm Beach County Democrats ponder incumbent protection

Monday, September 5th, 2011 by George Bennett

As Palm Beach County’s Democratic Party considers a measure to protect incumbents from “unnecessary” primary challenges, it’s worth noting that some of the biggest local Democratic names of the last two decades were once outsiders who challenged incumbents in Democratic primaries.

Former U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler first gained office by ousting Democratic incumbent Don Childers in a 1990 state Senate primary. Former U.S. Rep. Ron Klein‘s electoral debut was unseating Steve Press in a 1992 Democratic state House primary. County Commissioner Burt Aaronson won his seat by toppling Carole Phillips in a 1992 Democratic primary.

After giving up her state House seat in 1992 to pursue a failed congressional bid, Lois Frankel made a comeback in 1994 by challenging the one-term incumbent who had replaced her, former Frankel aide Mimi McAndrews, and defeating her in a memorably bitter Democratic primary.

Facing state House term limits in 2000, Addie Greene set her sights on the county commission and pushed aside veteran incumbent Maude Ford Lee in a Democratic primary.

State Rep. Irving Slosberg first gained office in 2000 by beating incumbent Curt Levine in a Democratic state House primary.

Tax Collector Anne Gannon made a failed try to defeat incumbent Suzanne Jacobs in a 1994 Democratic state House primary. Before winning his seat in 2010, state Rep. Steve Perman tried and failed to oust Richard Machek in a 2006 Democratic state House primary.

Elections Supervisor Susan Bucher won her nonpartisan office in 2008 by defeating incumbent and fellow Democrat Arthur Anderson.

UPDATE: Palm Beach County ballot mix-up

Tuesday, August 24th, 2010 by Dara Kam

UPDATE: More of the same ballot mix-ups are being reported in Palm Beach County and in Broward County, according to the state Division of Elections. There have been fewer than 10 instances reported in each county.

Oops. After the millions of dollars spent by GOP gubernatorial opponents Rick Scott and Attorney General Bill McCollum, at least two votes that could have gone their way won’t.

Two Palm Beach County Republican voters received “No Party Affiliation” ballots but reported the mix-up only after they had cast their votes, meaning they did not vote in the heated GOP primary.

The poll workers who handed out the wrong ballots were re-assigned, elections supervisor Susan Bucher said.

“I don’t know how this could happen,” she said.

Turn-out throughout the state appears to be light despite predictions of record-breaking voter participation.

Early, absentee voting for special congressional race to replace Wexler exceeds primary levels

Tuesday, April 6th, 2010 by George Bennett

Early and absentee voting statistics show there’s more interest in next Tuesday’s special congressional election to replace Robert Wexler than there was for the special Feb. 2 primaries in Palm Beach-Broward congressional District 19.

Monday’s opening of early voting drew 1,192 voters in Palm Beach County — a 136 percent increase over the first day of early voting before the Feb. 2 special primaries, when 504 people voted. A total of 2,825 people ended up casting early primary ballots in Palm Beach County between Jan. 25 and Jan. 31.

Broward County had 305 early voters Monday, compared to 650 early voters for the entire seven-day period before the primaries.

With a week to go, both counties have already received more absentee ballots than they did for the primaries.


Three running Rooney brothers “unbelievable,” dad says; also Bucher fallout, Wexler’s return, Budd’s plans

Monday, February 15th, 2010 by George Bennett

As freshman U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Tequesta, seeks reelection this year, older brother Pat Rooney Jr. is running for a state House seat and younger brother Brian Rooney is trying to win a Michigan congressional seat.

Read about it this week’s Politics column.

Also: Read about how prosecutors want tougher residency standards in response to Elections Supervisor Susan Bucher’s frequent address changes when she was a state House member. And Robert Wexler returns to South Florida this week.

Bucher’s residency claims were “questionable” but not criminal, prosecutor says

Friday, February 12th, 2010 by George Bennett



“Although the conduct reviewed is questionable and it appears that Ms. Bucher was manipulating her residency documents, there are no Florida statutes that directly address her behavior.”

So says a Palm Beach County state attorney’s memo concluding that no criminal charges should be filed against Elections Supervisor Susan Bucher for her multiple residency changes while she was a state House member from 2000 to 2008.

Read about it here.

Bucher and her husband owned a house outside her legislative district, but — in a practice that’s not uncommon among elected officials in Palm Beach County – Bucher registered to vote at a series of addresses inside the district.

A political rival alleged in 2008 that Bucher didn’t live where she claimed and therefore had signed false voter registration documents. Eighteen months later, the state attorney’s office concluded that Florida’s residency standard is too “vague” and “ambiguous” to pursue any charges.

Only one Republican appears to have enough signatures for special congressional ballot

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009 by George Bennett

It looks like only one of the three Republicans who want to replace Democratic U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler in a special election turned in enough valid signatures to qualify for the ballot without paying a $9,912 filing fee.

According to unofficial totals from the Palm Beach County elections office and official Broward County numbers, financial planner Joe Budd met the goal of 1,163 signatures from voters who live in Wexler’s congressional District 19 while retired police officer Curt Price and contractor Ed Lynch did not.

Both Price and Lynch said they plan to contact the elections offices to inquire about rejected petitions. They can still get on the ballot by paying the filing fee by noon Friday. Democrats Ted Deutch and Ben Graber plan to qualify by paying the fee. Nonpartisan candidates can qualify by paying a $6,608 fee.


Wexler sets Jan. 3 resignation date in letter to Crist

Friday, October 30th, 2009 by George Bennett



U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler, D-Boca Raton, has set his resignation for Jan. 3 at 11:59 p.m. in a letter this week to Gov. Charlie Crist, who will set a special election to fill the last year of Wexler’s term.

Wexler is leaving in the middle of his seventh term to head the nonprofit Center for Middle East Peace and Economic Cooperation.

Palm Beach County Elections Supervisor Susan Bucher and Broward County Elections Supervisor Brenda Snipes want the special election to fill Wexler’s Palm Beach-Broward seat to be on March 9, which would coincide with municipal election dates in both counties.

No word yet from Crist’s office on the dates for the special primary and general election dates.

Read the text of Wexler’s letter after the jump…..


Special election to fill Wexler congressional seat could cost $600,000 in Palm Beach County

Friday, October 16th, 2009 by George Bennett



A special election to replace U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler, D-Boca Raton, will cost Palm Beach County about $600,0000, Elections Supervisor Susan Bucher says. And if state Sen. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, wins that election, Bucher estimates it could cost another $500,000 to hold a special election to fill Deutch’s Senate seat.

Wexler is leaving in January, midway through his seventh term, to head the nonprofit Center for Middle East Peace and Economic Cooperation.

Under state law, the county can recover special election costs from the state. But the reimbursements won’t come until July 1 at the earliest and could take longer, Florida Department of State spokeswoman Jennifer Krell Davis said.

Palm Beach County has already submitted requests for about $246,000 to recover expenses from special elections this summer to fill a state Senate vacancy and an open state House seat.

Bucher’s estimates for the special congressional and state Senate elections assume there is both a primary and general election for each seat. Both districts run into Broward County. Bucher didn’t estimate costs there.

Wexler likely to back Deutch, Democratic source says

Wednesday, October 14th, 2009 by George Bennett



U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler, D-Boca Raton, will probably back state Sen. Ted Deutch in the special election to fill Wexler’s congressional seat, a knowledgeable Democratic source says.

Wexler himself wasn’t ready to make any endorsements today as he confirmed he’s leaving Congress in the middle of his seventh term to become president of the nonprofit Center for Middle East Peace and Economic Cooperation.

Wexler has a long history of getting involved in Democratic primaries and other local races. His most memorable activity was probably his successful 2004 effort to topple former elections chief Theresa LePore and install Arthur Anderson. Wexler later cooled on Anderson and was neutral when Anderson lost his reelection bid last year to Susan Bucher.

In 2006, Wexler backed Deutch in a Democratic state Senate primary and helped him defeat better-known, better-financed state Rep. Irving Slosberg. At the same time, Wexler was instrumental in Jeremy Ring’s victory over Ben Graber in a Democratic state Senate primary in Broward County. Now Deutch and Ring are among the candidates considering running for Wexler’s congressional seat.

Wexler hinted he’ll make an endorsement soon.

“I have been known to get involved in primaries before, both to people’s happiness and chagrin…I’ve done it before. I care deeply about the person who will replace me and lead this community in Congress, so we’ll leave that for another day,” Wexler said.

Early voting turnout “very sad” as Tuesday’s special House 84 election approaches

Monday, August 24th, 2009 by George Bennett

Early and absentee voting figures suggest another low-turnout special election Tuesday when Riviera Beach Councilman Cedrick Thomas and Delray Beach City Commissioner Mack Bernard vie for the state House District 84 seat.

In fact, not even all the candidates will be voting. Bernard lives outside the district and has not changed his residence. If he wins, he said he will establish residency in District 84 before Sept. 22, when the winner of Tuesday’s election will take office.

Only 75 people cast early ballots for the election to replace Priscilla Taylor, who left the District 84 seat in July when Gov. Charlie Crist appointed her to a Palm Beach County commission vacancy.

“It’s very sad,” said Palm Beach County Elections Supervisor Susan Bucher.


Ballot flap, Boca jolt, union mystery…

Monday, March 16th, 2009 by George Bennett

It depends on what the meaning of “received” is.

Find out how the recent one-vote Palm Beach mayor’s race could end up setting statewide precedent. Plus: Is the vaunted Greater Boca Raton Chamber of Commerce losing its mojo? What’s U.S. Rep. Ron Klein’s explanation for not cosponsoring Big Labor’s top congressional priority? Will Art Argenio and Joe Negron — the Frazier and Ali of Treasure Coast Republican politics — beat each other up again?

Read about it here.

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