Friends in the Palm Beach Chapter of the ACLU recently asked us if we had any suggestions whom they might grace with its 2013 Harriette Glasner Freedom Award, "for a Palm Beach County resident whose life and work embodies the values and ideals of the Constitution and the ACLU." When do we not have suggestions?
A little thought and a quick review of the past year's events and it clicked: Susan Bucher, Palm Beach County supervisor of elections.
- Palm Beach Voting: Screwed-Up Ballots Scrutinized
There are those, like Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who believe there is no "right" to vote -- at least not for the presidency. More civilized beings accept that we all have a right to say who governs us, and no one this year did more than Susan to enable us to exercise that right. She did so in the face of organized villainy by Gov.
Evil Scott and the Taliban Florida GOP, while under withering criticism for problems not of her own making -- problems she addressed with art and aplomb.
Gov. Scott's voter list purge was the the first hurdle Bucher faced. We lefties have no doubt that Scott's intention was to pare the list of likely Democratic voters. But even if his stated goal -- clearing the list of noncitizens -- was not a mere pretext, Scott bungled the effort so badly it resulted in the resignation of his chief elections official, federal lawsuits, and a boycott of the purge by county elections officials throughout the state, with Bucher very much in the lead. Scott's purge ended up much ado about nothing.
Bucher also stood up to the GOP Legislature's effort to suppress black and working-class voter turnout, which it did by reducing the time allowed for early voting. Bucher responded with an ingenious and entirely legal maneuver, in-person absentee voting.
Bucher also showed great creativity when faced with a vendor's error that resulted in misprints of absentee ballots. Bucher buckled down and improvised a system in which elections workers checked, hand-copied, and corrected 25,000 of the flawed ballots -- all under the watchful eye of candidates' representatives. No legal challenge ensued.
The absentee ballot corrections extended right through and beyond Election Day, and Bucher seemed to be everywhere during the process, dashing between her office on Military Trail and the ballot-counting facility in Riviera Beach, all the while fielding a barrage of questions from a hypervigilant press.
Predictably, and unfairly, GOP partisans blamed Bucher for the misprinted ballots -- and every slightest hiccup in the election process. Just last week, she was libeled by one right-wing propaganda mill, accused of "tossing" tens of thousands of ballots. We'd like to see Bucher sue her accuser, but she probably has better things to do. The dogs bark; the caravan moves on.
For enduring all that abuse and for all her sterling, tireless efforts in defense of the right to vote, we think Bucher would be a terrific choice for ACLU's Glasner award.
Fire Ant -- an invasive species, tinged bright red, with an annoying, sometimes fatal bite -- covers Palm Beach County. Got feedback or a tip? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.