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Nancy Smith

Susan Bucher, Palm Beach Elections Super, Gets DeSantis' Heave-Ho

January 19, 2019 - 6:00am
Susan Bucher
Susan Bucher

A week ago, a bitter Janet Hazelit, a one-time employee in the Broward County Supervisor of Elections Office, appeared on a local TV station in South Florida calling the removal of former Broward Elections Supervisor Brenda Snipes "a race thing. ..."

"The governor dumps the black woman but leaves the white one in the next county with a worse record in place," she opined.

Hazelit was talking about Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher. She is "the white one."

But on Friday, Ron DeSantis showed he was every bit the equal opportunity governor he had promised on the campaign trail.  

The governor yanked Democrat Bucher, who had blamed aging equipment for her inability to get midterm votes counted on time and replaced her with Republican West Palm Beach attorney Wendy Link. 

“Today, we turn our attention to the need to restore faith in our elections processes here in Florida,” DeSantis said in making the announcement. “During the 2018 General Election, Florida had 65 out of 67 counties that ran good elections. Supervisor Bucher demonstrated she was unable to comply with the laws of our state and her duties as the supervisor of elections and failed to accurately report information related to the number of ballots that had been cast. For these reasons, I am suspending Susan Bucher as Palm Beach County supervisor of elections, effective immediately. It is time to turn the page in Palm Beach County to ensure accountability and transparency from our elections officials.”

DeSantis traveled to West Palm Beach to make the announcement on the steps of the Historical Museum of Palm Beach. He said removing Bucher was following the recommendation of Secretary of State Mike Ertel.

On Election Night WPBF-TV in West Palm Beach interviewed Bucher at the Elections Office, where she described an incident-free night with an earlier-than-usual start on vote counting. See the segment here. Notice the pace of the staff. It says, "All done!" Yet, later, we discover some 15,000 ballots were mysteriously "found."

But the spotlight on Bucher further intensified with the recount. Four races in the county were within 0.5 percent and qualified for the recount -- during which they couldn't keep up and failed to make the state-mandated deadline. Bucher argued it wasn't her fault, the machines machines were purchased before she took office in 2009; critics said she knew they were trouble and should have replaced them years earlier.

Wendy Link
Wendy Link

Link, Bucher's replacement, is familiar to many in Palm Beach County. She is the managing partner and a founding partner of Ackerman, Link & Sartory. She concentrates her legal practice in commercial real estate, asset-based financing, and general corporate law. She also serves as secretary/treasurer of the Florida Colleges Trustee Commission and as immediate past-chair of the District Board of Trustees for Palm Beach State College. 

Currently, Link also serves as a member of the boards of directors of the Economic Council of Palm Beach County, WPBT Channel 2, the United Way, the Forum Club of the Palm Beaches, BizPac, and as a member of the Board of Supervisors for CityPlace Community Development District.

DeSantis said Link will not run for the position in 2020.

Bucher wasn't returning phone calls Friday afternoon. Neither did her office staff. But she is expected to go before the Florida Senate to contest her removal.

Florida Democratic Party Chair Terrie Rizzo, meanwhile, called Bucher's suspension "a gross overreach" of power.

"In the United States, our elections are sacred and our elections supervisors are democratically elected," said Rizzo. "The governor's recent power grab, removing Democrats from elected positions, including Susan Bucher, should be seen for what it is, a gross overreach and a politically motivated move to consolidate power and obstruct the will of the people."

Republican Party of Florida (RPOF) Chairman Joe Gruters, on the other hand, congratulated the governor for holding Bucher accountable: 

“Gov. DeSantis’ decision to suspend West Palm Beach Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher is yet another promise delivered upon by America’s boldest governor,” said the newly elected RPOF chairman. “It is apparent the Florida Democrats have chosen political games over the integrity of our voting system. Holding individuals accountable for the hoopla that occurred during the recent midterm elections is vital to restoring the faith of the people in a fair election process. And undermining the will of Floridians will only continue to jeopardize the most sacred right and essential element of our democracy. The RPOF applauds Gov. DeSantis for safeguarding the vote of the people.”

Bucher, who was a state representative earlier in her career, has a long history of election trespasses, though most Palm Beach voters have forgiven her. Somehow, she has survived in the supervisor's office for 10 years.

Here is just a sample of our archived Susan Bucher commentary since 2011:

And, in case you missed it, DeSantis adviser and cheerleader Congressman Matt Gaetz fired off this wilting tweet after the governor's announcement: “Bucher violated court orders, polluted provisional ballots w ballots not approved by the canvassing board, failed 2 maintain equipment & even overheated elections equipment by jamming it w a paper clip. Anyone else tired of being embarrassed by Palm Beach Co during elections?”

 

Reach Nancy Smith at nsmith@sunshinestatenews.com or at 228-282-2423. Twitter: NancyLBSmith

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