Is it on purpose? Is it bad luck? Or is it that she’s just terrible at her job? The courts have reprimanded Broward County Elections Supervisor Brenda Snipes on multiple occasions for veering outside of state laws when it comes to her Election Day operations. She’s sent ballots with duplicate pages, left off a ballot initiative completely, which prompted a lawsuit, and she illegally destroyed congressional ballots in 2016 (via Miami Herald):
Even beyond her own reprimand for authorizing the destruction of ballots, Snipes cannot deny the department’s patchy track record. In 2016, early voting results for Broward were posted a half hour before polls closed, in violation of election law. Her office was sued unsuccessfully because a constitutional amendment was missing from some mail-in ballots. The electronic system used by the county was also later found to have been targeted by Russian government hackers — although it’s unclear whether that affected results and had nothing to do with the early posting.
On multiple occasions, there have been problems with printing mail ballots. And in the August primaries, Broward was the last county to post election results. The department cited reasons from unexpected recounts, delayed jump drive delivery — rumor was they were temporarily lost — to a late influx of mail-in ballots that were still being counted the next day, leaving the results of several races unclear .
“We have consistently been the bottom of the barrel getting our voting results in,” Broward County Commissioner Nan Rich said at a September meeting to discuss how to prevent future delays in posting results. “I don’t want to be 67th in 67 counties again in voting.”
#Florida law requires counties report early voting & vote-by-mail within 30 minutes after polls close. 43 hours after polls closed 2 Democrat strongholds #BrowardCounty & #PalmBeachCounty are still counting & refusing to disclose how many ballots they have left to count. #Sayfie pic.twitter.com/ReXCaOzkZP— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) November 8, 2018
And now, Snipes mixed rejected provisional ballots with good ones:
Broward’s elections supervisor accidentally mixed more than a dozen rejected ballots with nearly 200 valid ones, a circumstance that is unlikely to help Brenda Snipes push back against Republican allegations of incompetence.
The mistake — for which no one had a solution Friday night — was discovered after Snipes agreed to present 205 provisional ballots to the Broward County canvassing board for inspection. She had initially intended to handle the ballots administratively, but agreed to present them to the canvassing board after Republican attorneys objected.
“We have found no clear authority controlling the situation faced by the board,” said Broward County Attorney Andrew Meyers.
On Election Day, Broward County collected more than 600 provisional ballots. The vast majority were declared invalid by the county’s canvassing board judges for reasons ranging from registering to vote too late to previously voting to voting at the wrong precinct.
…a couple hundred provisional ballots were held in limbo. Those ballots were the result of a connectivity issue in the system that precincts use to look up voter registrations, said Pat Nesbit, the elections day operations manager for Broward County. Voters would swipe their ID and the precinct system would show they weren’t registered voters. But when staffers called the Broward elections headquarters, the voter’s registration would appear. Precinct workers had those 205 voters fill out provisional ballots.
On Election Day, Broward election staffers set those 205 votes aside, removed the anonymous ballots from their signed envelopes and counted them up in a voting machine that didn’t add those numbers to the final vote count. The elections department didn’t originally intend to have the canvassing board review those votes, but after uproar from lawyers for the Republican Party, the office handed them over to the board, which usually reviews ballots still in the envelopes.
How does Snipes still have this job?
Broward County is part of ground zero in the what’s becoming another Florida elections fiasco. Republican Gov. Rick Scott has declared victory over his Democratic rival, Sen. Bill Nelson, but these late night vote dumps have chipped away at Scott’s lead, we are now in recount territory. The issue is the timing. They’re moving so slow, we don’t know how many votes are left to count, and they increased the number of the ballots cast on Election Day. This is the largest Democratic bastion in the state. Snipes was not giving regular updates on the vote tallies, something the Scott campaign wanted and had to sue in order to achieve compliance. A judge ruled in Scott’s favor yesterday, but Snipes is refusing to comply with the order.
In nearby Palm Beach, their elections supervisor, Susan Bucher, is accused of barring Scott campaign representatives from witnessing their replacement ballot process, in which damaged ballots are replaced by the election official. It's viewed as a way to make sure every vote gets counted. Yet, these officials are pretty much creating new ballots and putting them through machines, hence why there needs to be witnesses because this scenario is ripe for fraud. Florida State University College Of Law professor Michael Morley went on a lengthy Twitter threat about the nonsense that’s going on in both counties.
13/ @FLGovScott lawsuit against Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher - supported by a verified complaint (i.e., sworn under penalty of perjury) - provides evidence of far more serious wrongdoing. https://t.co/JTfRAdZlOj— michaelmorley11 (@michaelmorley11) November 9, 2018
14/ State law provides that, if a paper ballot is physically damaged in a way that prevents it from being read by an automated tabulation machine, election officials may make a replacement ballot to be run through the machine instead.— michaelmorley11 (@michaelmorley11) November 9, 2018
15/ That is an *extremely serious power.* To prevent people from being disenfranchised (potentially due to ballot handling beyond their control), state law lets election officials create replacement ballots to be automatically tabulated instead of the original vote.— michaelmorley11 (@michaelmorley11) November 9, 2018
16/ In other words, election officials, quite literally, create new ballots to be counted. Obviously, the law requires them to fill out the replacement ballots the same way, for the same candidates, as the original damaged ballots they're replacing.— michaelmorley11 (@michaelmorley11) November 9, 2018
17/ The process creates a real, immediate opportunity for fraud that could change an election's results.If a damaged ballot were cast for @FLGovScott, for example, a hyper-partisan or corrupt official could be tempted to fill out a replacement ballot for Sen Nelson, or vice versa— michaelmorley11 (@michaelmorley11) November 9, 2018
18/ State law *recognizes* that the literal creation of new ballots to be counted is one of the most sensitive and vulnerable steps in the process. That's why it requires the creation of replacement ballots must occur "in the presence of witnesses." Fla. Stat. 101.5614(4)(a)— michaelmorley11 (@michaelmorley11) November 9, 2018
19/ @FlGovScott lawsuit provides sworn evidence that the Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections prohibited his campaign's reps from monitoring the creation of replacement ballots. Election officials are filling out new ballots, but the candidate's reps apparently couldn't see— michaelmorley11 (@michaelmorley11) November 9, 2018
Right now, things could get even more chaotic, as scores of lawyers on both sides prepare for the recount fight. And we have Ms. Snipes’ incompetence that will play a role, good or bad, but mostly bad, in this second front of the 2018 midterms.
UPDATE: It’s official. We’re heading for recounts.
Via The Hill:
Three statewide races in Florida are heading for recounts after a key deadline for county election officials to submit unofficial vote tallies came and went Saturday.
The first round of machine recounts, which must be completed by Thursday, sets up a bitter fight to the finish in Florida’s races for Senate, governor and agriculture commissioner.
The most closely watched recount is the Senate race between incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) and Florida’s Republican Gov. Rick Scott, who currently carries a narrow lead of roughly 12,500 votes — about 0.15 points.
In Florida, an automatic machine recount is triggered if two candidates are within 0.5 points of one another. If the candidates are within 0.25 points of one another after that machine recount is conducted, a hand recount is triggered