Susan Bucher is the Palm Beach County supervisor of elections who is being sued by Republicans accusing her of violating election laws in the close races for Florida governor and US Senate.
Florida Governor Rick Scott, who is also the Republican candidate for US Senate, joined the National Republican Senatorial Committee in suing Bucher, alleging that she illegally used her own judgment to determine voter intent in reviewing damaged or wrongly filled-out absentee ballots and refused to allow independent election monitors.
The lawsuit says that Bucher “failed to allow the Palm Beach County Canvassing Board” to review damaged or incorrectly filled-out ballots as required by law and decided voter intent on her own, Fox News reports.
The lawsuit seeks a court injunction to force Bucher to allow Scott’s representatives to review the damaged absentee ballots and allow the canvassing board to determine voter intent when counting the ballots.
Bucher told Fox News that the county is still counting around 2,000 mail-in ballots where voters circled or highlighted their candidate of choice instead of filling in the bubbles next to their name. Workers are filing new ballots on behalf of voters where intent is determined. Bucher said ballots where intent could not be determined are being sent to the canvassing board.
Here is what you need to know:
1. Susan Bucher is a Former Lawmaker Who Fought Against Rick Scott Voter Purge
Susan Bucher served as an aide to Democratic Florida state Rep. Ed Healey until he died in 2000 of a brain hemorrhage. Bucher ran in a special election to replace him, winning a run-off primary with 62 percent of the vote and her general election with 74 percent of the vote. She served until 2008, when she was forced out by term limits, Talking Points Memo reports. She ran for the Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections, earning the endorsement of the Orlando Sun-Sentinel and winning with 58 percent of the vote.
In 2012, her office was criticized for improperly certifying election results in Wellington that wrongly showed the losers of the elections had won the races. She blamed an equipment error and fixed the issue. That same year, she publicly opposed Governor Rick Scott’s purge of “non-citizens” from voter rolls after her office determined that dozens of voters in the county were purged despite being legal citizens.
“We need to make sure we have reliable and credible information, by a preponderance of evidence,” she said in a statement announcing her decision not to comply with the governor’s demand. “We could prove that the information was not credible before sending letters and even the Division of Elections has admitted substantial flaws. I did not feel we had credible information and told them I wouldn’t send [any letters] until they could give me a better list.”
2. GOP Lawsuit Accuses Susan Bucher of Violating Election Law
On election night, media outlets called the Senate race for Republican Rick Scott over incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson and Democrat Andrew Gillum conceded his race to Republican Ron DeSantis. But Palm Beach County and Broward County continued to sort through early and mail-in ballots and the margins in the race soon tightened to within less than 0.5 percent, the threshold that requires an automatic recount by state law.
“Late Tuesday night, our win was projected to be around 57,000 votes,” Scott said at a news conference Thursday. “By Wednesday morning, that lead dropped to 38,000. By Wednesday evening, it was around 30,000. This morning, it was around 21,000. Now, it is 15,000.”
“On election night, Broward County said there were 634,000 votes cast,” he explained. “At 1 a.m. today, there were 695,700 ballots cast on election day. At 2:30 p.m. today, the number was up to 707,223 ballots cast on Election Day. And we just learned, that the number has increased to 712,840 ballots cast on Election Day. In Palm Beach County, there are 15,000 new votes found since election night.”
“So, it has been over 48 hours since the polls closed and Broward and Palm Beach Counties are still finding and counting ballots – and the Supervisors – Brenda Snipes and Susan Bucher – cannot seem to say how many ballots still exist or where these ballots came from, or where they have been,” he added.
Along with a separate lawsuit against Broward County Elections Supervisor Brenda Snipes, Scott sued Bucher and demanded an injunction. On Friday, Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Krista Marx said Friday that it was too late for Scott to demand an injunction but did order Bucher to retrieve ballots that were not sent to the Palm Beach County Canvassing Board to assure they were duplicated properly, The Palm Beach Post reports. Marx agreed that Bucher did not act in a way that comported with “best practices” but said she was not convinced it was illegal. Marx ruled that Bucher must provide a list to the Demcoratic Party to allow voters who has problems with their provisional ballots to correct their mistakes so their votes can be counted.
3. Florida Senate, Governor Races Appear Headed For Recount as Margins Tighten
The race between Scott and Nelson is separated by less than 0.2 percent and the race between Gillum and DeSantis is separated by less than 0.5 percent. Under Florida law, any election with a margin of 0.5 percent or less triggers an automatic machine recount while races with margins of 0.25 percent or less are subject to more time-consuming manual hand recounts.
Though Gillum conceded his race on Tuesday night, he is now calling for all the votes to be counted with an eye toward a recount.
“On Tuesday night, the Gillum for Governor campaign operated with the best information available about the number of outstanding ballots left to count,” his campaign said in a statement Thursday night. “Since that time, it has become clear there are many more uncounted ballots than was originally reported. Our campaign, along with our attorney Barry Richard, is monitoring the situation closely and is ready for any outcome, including a state-mandated recount.”
4. Republicans Are Accusing Democrats of Trying to ‘Steal’ Florida Elections
Florida Republicans and President Donald Trump have alleged without evidence that Democrats are trying to “steal” the close races by making sure all the votes are counted.
“Now democrat lawyers are descending on #Florida. They have been very clear they aren’t here to make sure every vote is counted,” Senator Marco Rubio said in an extended tweet storm. “Broward election supervisors ongoing violation of #Florida law requiring timely reporting isn’t just annoying incompetence. It has opened the door for lawyers to come here & try to steal a seat in the U.S. Senate & Florida Cabinet.”
“I will not stand idly by while unethical liberals try to steal an election,” Scott said at a news conference Thursday. He similarly told Fox News host Sean Hannity that “no ragtag group of liberal activists or lawyers from D.C. will be allowed to steal this election from the voters in the state of Florida.”
President Trump similarly alleged that the Democrats have sent their “best election stealing lawyer” to Florida.
Nelson’s campaign rejected claims of trying to “steal” the election and said that they were just trying to get votes counted.
“The goal here is to see that all the votes in Florida are counted and counted accurately,” Nelson spokesman Dan McLaughlin told CNN. “Rick Scott’s action appears to be politically motivated and born out of desperation.”
5. Palm Beach County Was at The Center of 2000 Presidential Recount
Palm Beach is no stranger to controversial elections and recounts. The county was the epicenter in the battle of the Florida recount in the 2000 presidential race between George W. Bush, whose brother Jeb was governor at the time, and Al Gore.
Palm Beach became a key county in the recount because of their bizarrely designed butterfly ballots, where an estimated 2,800 would-be Gore voters accidentally voted for Reform Party candidate Pat Buchanan, The Palm Beach Post reported. As the recount moved along, it also became apparent that thousands of voters in the county improperly voted for more than one candidate while thousands of others did not cast a vote for president on their ballot.
Because Democrats only requested recounts in four Democratic-leaning counties, the US Supreme Court ruled in a split decision that the partial recount was unconstitutional and gave the Florida election to Bush. Gore conceded the race just over a month after the election.
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