Second Florida Elections Official Suspended Over Recount

(CN) – Newly inaugurated Florida Governor Ron DeSantis suspended a county elections supervisor on Friday, as fallout from last year’s vote recount continues into 2019.

DeSantis made the announcement to suspend Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher during a press conference at the Historical Society of Palm Beach County.

President Donald Trump stands behind then-gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis as he speaks at a rally on Nov. 3, 2018, in Pensacola, Fla. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

The governor, a Republican, said Bucher, a Democrat, bungled the recount process in several ways, including not completing the full recount until 50 days after the election.

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

Bucher, a former state representative, was elected to elections supervisor in 2008.

She did not immediately respond Friday to a request for comment.

During the recount, Bucher pointed to outdated ballot-counting machines, which only allowed her office to recount one race at a time, as reason for the delay. The machines also overheated and needed repair during the recount.

Former Governor Rick Scott, a Republican who was narrowly elected to the U.S. Senate, filed multiple lawsuits against the elections office during the recount, including one blaming Palm Beach County for using the overheated machines before performing the required accuracy tests.

Scott also sued Bucher for allegedly refusing to allow his representatives to view the processing of damaged absentee ballots.

Scott made statements about widespread fraud in Palm Beach and Broward counties, two heavily Democratic strongholds that voted for his opponent, longtime incumbent Senator Bill Nelson.

President Donald Trump also weighed in with a Nov. 8 tweet denouncing “another big corruption scandal having to do with election fraud in Broward and Palm Beach.”

DeSantis, a Trump acolyte who narrowly won his own race for governor, also criticized Broward County’s handling of the recount.

“We had the vast majority of our counties do a very good job,” he said. “So I think the problems you saw in places like Broward and Palm Beach unfairly tarnished the image of the state.”

The elections supervisor in Broward County, Brenda Snipes, announced her resignation after the recount, only to be suspended by Scott in December. Snipes sued Scott and the Florida Senate for violating her due process rights by not holding a hearing. Earlier this month, a federal judge sided with her and ruled Snipes must have a hearing in the state Senate before March 31.

However, during DeSantis’ press conference Friday, the governor said he is accepting Snipes’ earlier resignation to prevent any further litigation and “waste of taxpayer’s money.”

It is not clear if Snipes will still have the hearing. The governor’s office did not respond to a request for clarification on the issue, and neither did Senate President Bill Galvano’s office.

DeSantis named Wendy Link, an attorney with Ackerman, Link & Sartory in West Palm Beach, as Bucher’s replacement. She is a registered Republican and sits on the board of governors for the state university system.

In her prepared remarks, Link said she will not seek election when her interim term ends after the 2020 election. She also promised to replace the county’s old voting machines.

“Few things are more foundational to our democracy than to vote in an election that is open, fair and transparent,” she said.

While condemning Palm Beach County’s actions during the recount, DeSantis said Bay County – the epicenter of damage from Hurricane Michael just weeks before the election – still completed its recount in time.

During questioning by reporters, the governor did not give any indication he would suspend that county’s elections supervisor, who admitted to accepting emailed ballots in violation of Florida law.

“Well, yes, but you also had Bay County get in their returns on time,” he said of the strongly Republican area. “They also had to deal with a Category 5 hurricane and so I think if you compare what Bay County did with Palm Beach, Bay did much better than Palm Beach did.”

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