New Palm Beach County Property Appraiser Dorothy Jacks sworn in

Dorothy Jacks, longtime chief deputy to Gary Nikolits, is sworn in by retired Judge Mary Lupoi at the 1916 Palm Beach County Courthouse Tuesday, January 3, 2017. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)
Dorothy Jacks, longtime chief deputy to Gary Nikolits, is sworn in by retired Judge Mary Lupoi at the 1916 Palm Beach County Courthouse Tuesday, January 3, 2017. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)

In the main courtroom of the historic 1916 Palm Beach County Courthouse, whose first tenant a century ago was Palm Beach County’s “tax assessor,” that post’s ninth incarnation was sworn in Tuesday.

With a big smile, and with her family looking on from the old jury box, new Palm Beach County Property Appraiser — that’s the title now — Dorothy Jacks took the oath of office from a woman whose children she’d baby-sat as a 13-year-old in Palm Beach Gardens: retired Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Mary Lupo.

“I would be lying if I didn’t say that was very emotional,” said Jacks, whose voice then faltered with emotion as she said, “there is really nothing better in life than a dream come true.”

Jacks noted that now four of the county’s six constitutional officers are women: herself, Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher, Tax Collector Anne Gannon, and Clerk and Comptroller Sharon Bock, all of who attended Tuesday’s swearing-in. (The other two are State Attorney Dave Aronberg, who also attended, and Sheriff Ric Bradshaw, who was not there.)

Jacks worked in the property appraiser’s office for 28 years and was chief deputy since 2012 for Gary Nikolits, who stepped down after nearly a quarter-century at the post.

Appeals Court: Palm Beach County elections chief’s records charge was “reasonable”

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Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher imposed a “reasonable”  fee on U.S. Congress write-in candidate W. Michael Trout, the 4th District Court of Appeal said in a ruling released Wednesday.

Trout, a failed write-in candidate in November’s re-election of U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, also had challenged Deutch as a write-in in 2014.

After the 2014 election, he submitted a public records request to inspect the official ballots associated with his congressional race “at the earliest reasonable time possible, including ballots deemed to be cast in [Trout’s] name, and those deemed by [the Supervisor’s] office to be invalidated,” the appeals court’s ruling says.

Bucher responded six days later, saying counting the 145,881 ballots in 211 precincts would take require her and three other staffers to do work beyond that for a usual records request. She said she’d have to charge Trout up to $189.21, which he had to submit in advance as a deposit.

Florida’s Sunshine Law says records custodians can charge only the hourly pay of the lowest-paid person qualified to fulfill a request. Bucher argued that it was reasonable for her, as head of the elections office, to supervise Trout’s inspection of the ballots — and to charge her hourly wage.

Trout refused to pay the deposit and sued in Palm Beach County Circuit Court, then appealed when the judge ruled against him.

Palm Beach County elections chief Bucher: poll-watcher shoved me during canvassing board audit

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Canvassing board counts ballots on Election Night, Nov. 8. (The Palm Beach Post/Damon Higgins)

The poll-watcher who was booted during the Palm Beach County Canvassing Board’s Nov. 18 election audit had entered a secured area and had shoved Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher, she says in a response letter.

Bucher told Raymond Lutz, national coordinator for Southern California-based Citizens’ Oversight Projects, she could have had him arrested for battery and for interrupting an official government process, but that she settled for having deputies remove him.

In the 2-page letter, dated Friday, she said Lutz edited out that part when he posted videos suggesting elections officials violated Florida open meetings laws during the audit.

A Palm Beach County Sheriff’s report says the deputy watched as Bucher ordered Lutz out and issued him a trespass warning and said Lutz then left without incident.

Bucher said she’d told Lutz in a Nov. 14 email that audits are open and that the elections office videotapes them. The supervisor said that as a legislator in 2007, she helped draft the rules for such audits, and that his insinuations that the canvassing board manipulated the audit are “not only untrue and insulting, but baseless.”

To read more, go later to mypalmbeachpost.com.

Boca Raton Unitarians make good on threat to withdraw as voting site in mosque controversy

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A Unitarian congregation in Boca Raton has made it official, withdrawing as a voting site to protest Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher’s pulling a polling place out of a Boca Raton mosque.20161112-bucher-letter-withdrawal

On Wednesday, Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Boca Raton forwarded to reporters a formal letter of withdrawal that it sent Bucher on Nov. 12.

“We are saddened that it has come to this. Religious discrimination, and Islamophobia in particular, have been increasing dramatically, even more so since the election,” the group’s secretary, Charlie Cormier, said in an email to reporters. “We had hoped that our county government would not succumb to pressure from

Islamic Center of Boca Raton
Islamic Center of Boca Raton

that segment of our community. We continue to hope that other government offices resist similar pressures in the future.”

 

The group — which said it has served as a polling place for decades, most recently for precinct 4160 — had threatened on Aug. 21 to withdraw after the election if Bucher did not restore the mosque in time for the Nov. 8 vote, which she didn’t. It said its rules forbid to rent to any group that discriminates.

Bucher earlier this summer had selected Islamic Center of Boca Raton, at 3480 N.W. Fifth Ave. near Florida Atlantic University, then decided in July not to use it after she received as many as 50 calls advising her to move the site, with some callers warning her they’d try to block voting or even would call in a bomb threat in order to clear the building.

After the move, Bucher told The Palm Beach Post Editorial Board she felt she had to move the site “when we had a heightened threat that they (phone callers) were going to impede voters. I was very disappointed in our community and saw we have a lot of work to do.”

Bucher’s office didn’t immediately comment Wednesday on the Unitarians’ action.

Elections office: Palm Beach County turnout was just 19.2 percent

Early voting at Jupiter Community Center Thursday, August 18, 2016. (Bruce R. Bennett / The Palm Beach Post)
Early voting at Jupiter Community Center Thursday, August 18, 2016. (Bruce R. Bennett / The Palm Beach Post)

Last week, Palm Beach County’s elections chief predicted a 20 percent turnout for Tuesday’s vote. She actually  had been a bit optimistic.

Total voting — in person on Tuesday, early, or by mail — was 167,497, according to data from the Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections.

That’s 19.2 percent of the 872,061 registered to vote.

The breakdown: 84604 voted Election Day, 54,029 used mail-in, and 28,865 voted early.

Supervisor Susan Bucher had given the 20 percent figure even as she predicted an 80 percent turnout for the high-profile Nov. 8 election, which will include the presidential vote.

Florida Division of Elections statistics weren’t immediately available Wednesday. The division has said turnout statewide was 18 percent in the 2014 primary.

Bucher, who was up late Tuesday night with the voting tabulations, couldn’t immediately be reached Wednesday.

To read more, go later to mypalmbeachpost.com.

Palm Beach County’s early voters have biggest day Thursday

Early voting at Jupiter Community Center Thursday, August 18, 2016. (Bruce R. Bennett / The Palm Beach Post)
Early voting at Jupiter Community Center Thursday, August 18, 2016. (Bruce R. Bennett / The Palm Beach Post)

With the last weekend looming, and either in spite of or because of what’s now a lessening threat for tropical storm conditions, Palm Beach County voters had their biggest turnout on Thursday, in early voting on for next Tuesday’s election, the Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections said Friday.

Thursday’s total of 2,397 — the second of two days over 2,000 — brought the grand total as of Thursday evening to 19,227. That already is more than the 15,785 who voted in the eight-day early-voting event in the August 2012 primary, supervisor Susan Bucher said Thursday.

The 14-day event ends Sunday.

For the latest on the tropics, visit Weather Plus http://weatherplus.blog.palmbeachpost.com/

Wednesday was the last day to request a mail-in ballot be mailed to you, although voters can pick up ballots in person up to Election Day. For your vote to count, your signed ballot must be received by 7 p.m. Tuesday at the main office, or by 5 p.m. Tuesday at branch offices.

To see a sample ballot, or for more information, contact the elections office at 561-656-6200 or visit ww.pbcelections.org.

For more information about early voting, including locations, visit mypalmbeachpost.com/august-early-voting/.

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Palm Beach County Elections chief Bucher: We were warned of bomb scare if mosque used for voting

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Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher moved a polling place from a Boca Raton mosque to a city library after callers warned they’d try to block voting or even would call in a bomb threat, she explained Wednesday in her first public comment on the controversy.

“We began receiving complaints from voters,” she said Wednesday in an email to The Post Editorial Board for an editorial published on line Wednesday evening.

“Some felt uncomfortable voting at the Islamic Center,” the email continued. “When we received a call that indicated individuals planned to impede voting and maybe even call in a bomb threat to have the location evacuated on Election Day (no name was given during the call), we located the Spanish River Library which is two miles away from the center as an alternative voting location and I called the Center’s President.”

Bucher replied to the inquiry from the Editorial Board but for three days has not responded to a Post reporter’s phone calls and emails requesting details and comment.

Bucher last week switched the voting site for Precinct 4170 from the Islamic Center of Boca Raton to Boca Raton’s Spanish River Library, Bassem Alhalabi, the mosque’s president, told The Palm Beach Post on Monday.

On Tuesday, Boca Raton-area U.S. Reps. Lois Frankel and Ted Deutch issued statements suggesting the move was discriminatory.  The county’s other two members of Congress, Reps. Alcee Hastings and Patrick Murphy, and U.S. Senators Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio, so far have not responded to requests for comment submitted Tuesday and Wednesday.

Also on Tuesday, Florida Family Association, a Tampa-based group that campaigns against Islamic-American relations urged people to support Bucher’s decision.  The group said it was responding to “pressure” being put on Bucher by the Florida chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.  CAIR on Monday had raised the possibility of legal action if Bucher didn’t change her mind.

Bucher is up for reelection to the non-partisan elections supervisor post in the Aug. 30 vote.