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Nancy Smith

Don Gaetz, Hero; Susan Bucher Down in Chad Central, Zero

November 13, 2010 - 6:00pm

This Weeks Hero: Sen. Don Gaetz

Too many headaches, too few early nights and glory? Dont even

Last week Sen. Don Gaetz took on a job with Senate President Mike Haridopolos leadership team sure to make him about as popular as a new hatch of love bugs: Hell be in charge of creating two new congressional districts and realigning 40 Senate and 120 House districts.

In terms of redistricting, in terms of implementing complicated Amendments 5 and 6, there are no disinterested parties in the Legislature. The Fort Walton Beach Republican is going to live in a very transparent bubble for a long time.

Gaetz actually was a sharp critic of the amendments before the election, and forwarded a study from the James Madison Institute to supporters in October. It recommended Floridians reject both measures. They didn't.

The reapportionment process over the next two years will be difficult and involve a great deal of legal wrangling, Gaetz said last week. It is my hope that we will be able to get these new district lines drawn without having the court intervene (due to Amendments 5 and 6, which prohibit both protecting incumbents and favoring one party over the other)

On the other hand, not all of Gaetzs prospects are exactly woeful. By accepting chairmanship of the Reapportionment and Redistricting Committee, hes multiplied his clout.

Not only will Gaetz, 62, travel the state redrawing officeholders boundaries, he is the leading candidate to follow Haridopolos as Senate president in 2012. That gives him a huge say in senators committee assignments and where -- if at all -- bills will go. And, increasingly, the media will be right there, fawning over his every footstep.

Nevertheless, Gaetz, elected to the Senate in 2006 a hospital administrator in Jacksonville and superintendent of schools for Okaloosa County before that displayed a profound dedication to duty and to the people of Florida by taking on so thankless a task.

Even before the first new boundary is drawn, the man gets my respect.

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This Week's Zero: Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher

Lucky for Palm Beach County Elections Supervisor Susan Bucher theres Alaska.

Way to go, Sue.

You showed em how to count ballots up there in the Land of the Midnight Sun. You beat a state that has to count 92,000 write-in ballots for a candidate named Murkowski.

The bottom line is, the election officially ended in Florida as it usually does when Palm Beach County finished counting its ballots. It finished counting Friday.

Thats 10 days after the actual election and five days after the 10th anniversary of the worldwide recount embarrassment.

For Palm Beach County, the final indignity in 2010 was the discovery a week after the election of 500 unopened absentee ballots in a box at the election tabulation center in Riviera Beach.

How does a thing like that happen? How do you miss a box of ballots in a small room? Especially when you're in that room to pick them up from boxes, one by one, and count them. You have your counted ballots on one side of the room, uncounted ballots on the other. How can a whole box of pristine, unopened ballots get lost in plain sight? Anybody?

It's one of the many questions Susan Bucher never answers.

What she does consistently say is, the year-after-year delay in ballot counting is because the county is too vast to use modems to send precinct numbers to headquarters: We have 463 locations that we are dealing with and we cant accommodate that.

Four hundred and sixty-three? Oh, my!

Come on, Susan. Even in sophisticated Palm Beach County it isn't fashionable to be this late. You have a highly responsible job in a county with abundant resources -- not just money, but clever people who know more about modems than you do. Ever consider employing one of them?

When can the rest of the state look forward to a solution, Sue?

You know that wonderful old Isham Jones-Gus Kahn classic, It Had to Be You?

I dedicate it to you, this weeks Zero. A two-time Zero at that. It had to be you, Susan Bucher.

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

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