Gov. Ron DeSantis suspends Palm Beach elections chief

Bucher, the long-time supervisor of elections in Palm Beach County, was suspended Friday by Gov. Ron DeSantis following a series of post-election controversies.

At a news conference at The Historical Museum of Palm Beach, DeSantis said he would follow Secretary of State Mike Ertel’s recommendation to suspend Bucher in order “to right the ship” in Palm Beach County.

DeSantis said Palm Beach County didn't complete the state-mandated recounts until after Christmas, tarnishing the state's image and creating a national embarrassment.

“Palm Beach County stands alone in that level of ineptitude,” DeSantis said. "They truly have been the keystone cops of election administration."

Bucher was the second South Florida elections supervisor to be suspended over the 2018 midterm recount. DeSantis' predecessor, Rick Scott, suspended Broward County Elections Supervisor Snipes from office and replaced her with lawyer Pete Antonacci, who served under Scott in a variety of high-profile positions.

Read the governor's order suspending Palm Beach County elections chief Susan Bucher

However, on Friday, DeSantis also announced that he would accept the resignation of Brenda Snipes as Broward County elections supervisor, effective Jan. 4, “saving the taxpayers of Florida” a large amount of money.

A federal judge on Jan. 9 ruled that Scott had violated Snipes’ due-process rights, and ordered the state to hear her side of the story no later than March 31. DeSantis’ action would remove her suspension and the requested need for a hearing.

DeSantis on Friday named Wendy Link, a Palm Beach County real estate lawyer and a member of the state university system board of trustees, as Bucher’s replacement. DeSantis said Link does not plan to run for reelection; she will serve until 2020.

Link said she will focus on conducting impartial and nonpartisan elections, along with replacing outdated voting equipment that led to counting delays.

"I am going to ensure Palm Beach County is well prepared for every election," she said.

Reached Friday morning before the news conference, Bucher said she had no knowledge of a suspension.

"He's going to have to prove I did anything wrong," Bucher said. "They [the state] had [election] monitors here 24-7."

Judge rebukes Palm Beach County elections head over duplicated ballots

Palm Beach County Tax Collector Anne Gannon said she has spoken to Bucher, a close friend, who said she’s going to challenge the suspension.

Gannon, who is elected, said the governor's move sets a bad precedent. She questioned whether she could be suspended for political reasons if her office sends a tax bill to the wrong address.

"If it could happen to her, it could happen to me," said Gannon, a former Democratic state lawmaker who attended the announcement.

DeSantis issued a lengthy executive order that delineated the reasons for Bucher's suspension. The order was based in large part on a letter dated Jan. 17 from the state's chief elections official, Ertel, who described Bucher's "combative incompetence over the years" and harshly criticized her handling of the 2018 election.

Ertel said Bucher was the only election supervisor in the state who did not buy servers sponsored by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to guard against cyber-terrorism. Ertel said Bucher placed a polling place inside a gated community in violation of state law; struggled to submit results to the state on a timely basis; refused to allow damaged ballots to be duplicated in the canvassing board's presence; and blocked the public and news media from observing ballot-review processes.

https://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/politics/fl-ne-ron-desantis-suspends-susan-bucher-20190118-story.html

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