■ Judge rebukes Palm Beach County elections head over duplicate ballots.
A judge rebuked Palm Beach County’s elections chief Susan Bucher Saturday morning, doubting she could meet a noon deadline to turn over duplicated ballots sought by Gov. Rick Scott’s Senate campaign.
Circuit Court Judge Krista Marx said Bucher should have submitted improperly completed ballots to the county’s Canvassing Board, instead of allowing her staff to make decisions on voter intent and fill out duplicate ballots to feed through machines.
“Everything I have says the Canvassing Board must make the determination not your staff members. … The language is unambiguous that it is for the canvassing board to make the determination,” Marx said.
Bucher told the judge it could take two to three days to retrieve the ballots because the duplicated ballots have been intermixed with other ballots. The original ballots are stored elsewhere and would need to be matched with the duplicated ballots.
The judge originally gave Bucher until 10 a.m. Saturday to turn over those duplicated ballots. She extended the deadline in an emergency hearing Saturday morning to have “substantial compliance” by noon, while adding “they’re not going to meet it.”
Scott’s Senate campaign filed the lawsuit, alleging that Bucher allowed her elections staff to duplicate ballots without witnesses as required by law. Bucher said her staff working in two-member teams would duplicate damaged or improperly completed ballots so they could be fed through scanners.
Scott’s attorneys estimated there could be 650 of these ballots, but Bucher said that number is likely “much more substantial.”
Bucher said her staff was well-trained, and the process was lawful because of a statute allowing a “Canvassing Board to employ clerical help to assist in counting ballots.”
A mixture of senior managers and temporary staff made decisions, Bucher said, and she was present during the process. Any problematic ballots were referred to the Canvassing Board.
Marx expressed dismay that more had not been done to comply with her original order.
“It’s my opinion zip-adee-doo-dah has been done to comply,” she said.
Protesters greeted Bucher when she left the courthouse Saturday, yelling that she “should be locked up.”
In Broward County, a judge ordered that Broward County elections chief turn over information on the number of ballots cast and other voter information.
The Scott campaign has received that information and is in the process of reviewing it, said Chris Hartline, a campaign spokesman.
Palm Beach County elections officials started their machine recount in the U.S. Senate race at 5 p.m. Saturday. There are three statewide recounts — for Senate, governor and agriculture commissioner — and one for a state House seat in southern Palm Beach County.