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Nancy Smith

Oh, Susan Bucher, What Have You Done Now?

December 9, 2012 - 6:00pm

Something (else) is rotten in the Palm Beach County supervisor of elections office.

The voter turnout number.

Has anybody scrutinized Palm Beach's crazy Election 2012 voter turnout percentage? It doesn't jibe with any of the other 66 counties' numbers, let alone the two Democratic, Obama-loving counties to the south. It doesn't even jibe with Palm Beach's past turnout pattern.

Here's what I think -- and I'll just come right out and say it:

I think the office of Democratic Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher lost or tossed or otherwise suppressed somewhere between 50,000 and 67,000 votes.

The numbers tell the story.

Presidential Election Voter Turnout Averages -- Palm Beach County

1996 70 percent.
2000 70 percent.
2004 75 percent.
2008 72 percent.
2012 64 percent.

Sixty-four percent?

State figures tell a different story, with turnout percentagesfluctuating only 3 percentto 4 percent from election to election. Palm Beachs 2008 to 2012 drop was twice the statewide average.

Statewide Presidential Election Turnout Averages

1996 67 percent.
2000 70 percent.
2004 74 percent.
2008 75 percent.
2012 71 percent.

Incidentally, Broward and Miami-Dade reported their respective turnout at 68 percent, down from 72 percent in 2008.

Missing votes in Palm Beach County will come as no surprise to Ashley Walker, Florida coordinator of the president's re-election campaign, Obama for America.

"I know for a fact Ashley was worried about Palm Beach, which is a strong Democratic county," said a political analyst who had stayed close to the Obama campaign. "I heard her tell people around her that the president would need every Democratic vote he could get and she didn't trust Susan Bucher in Palm Beach to get the job done."

In the previous four presidential elections, Palm Beach voter turnout averaged almost 72 percent. In Buchers mistake-riddled 2012 general election, 64 percent of PB voters turned out -- meaning that if 64 percent turnout had been at the 72 percent average, 67,000 more ballots should have been counted.

Did the numerous errors and delays and equipment breakdowns in Bucher's office disenfranchise 67,000 voters (870,000 at 72 percent turnout vs. 64 percent turnout)?

It isn't just the 30,000 misprinted ballots that had to be duplicated because nobody checked them over when they came back from the printer. (And, by the way, the full cost of duplication and how the office will pay for it is yet to come to light.)

Don't forget that the Palm Beach Post found 6,806 more early ballots than the 36,795 represented on Palm Beach Countys election website. The mistake apparently was caused by failure to include in daily totals the early votes cast at the West Boca Library and West Boynton Library.

When those ballots were included, the count rose to 43,601 -- 25,636 Democrats, 9,626 Republicans. Ultimately, the totals were correct on the state website, but it wasn't the first time anybody ever found a vote-count discrepancy on a website because of this Palm Beach County supervisor of elections' miscalculation.

"Her (Bucher's) incompetence is stunning," said political consultant Randy Nielsen, founder and partner of Public Concepts, which is located in West Palm Beach. "The numbers don't lie. She's managed to disenfranchise voters who are primarily Obama Democrats. Her incompetence -- I think it runs through the whole office like a disease -- is equal opportunity, nonpartisan. It goes on election after election, whether it's municipal, state or like this -- when we're voting for the president of the United States."

The political analyst close to the Obama campaign said the campaign's Florida headquarters received complaints from Palm Beach County voters who "ran into excuses" when they tried to get absentee ballots sent. "In the end, these people were just giving up," he said. "So, do I believe the voter turnout is less than it should be? I sure do."

I tried to reach Bucher late last week but it seems the office answering system, malfunctioning when I tried to get through several months ago, still hasn't been corrected. Call her office (561-656-6200). Push No. 6 for "the administration" -- Bucher's line. The canned voice says, "I'm sorry, I did not hear your selection. Please re-enter your selection now." When you re-enter, you'll get the same thing again. Try more than three times and you're disconnected.

What an embarrassment for Palm Beach County. Maybe Secretary of State Ken Detzner's fact-finding visit this week really will find the facts -- all of them -- giving the governor ammunition to do to Bucher what Gov. Jeb Bush did to Broward County Supervisor of Elections Miriam Oliphant in 2003: fire her for incompetence and mismanagement.

Reach Nancy Smith at or at (850) 727-0859.

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nancy smith

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