Gov. Rick Scott went to court this week to allege that Broward County Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes is trying to steal a U.S. Senate seat from him.
President Donald Trump, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna McDaniel all piled on, complaining that Snipes’ office manufactured votes in the middle of the night.
From our front-row seat to Snipes’ performance over the years, we find the allegations against her impossible to believe.
Snipes is not someone who would manufacture boxes of ballots to throw an election.
She’s long been willing to settle for coming in last in reporting elections results.
Yet, despite her record of poor performance, she keeps getting re-elected, perhaps because she prominently promotes her name and face at the polls.
Gov. Scott has every right to be concerned about Snipes. We all do.
It was alarming to see the number of Broward ballots cast steadily rise well after the polls closed Tuesday.
Mid-day Wednesday, for example, Snipes’ website said 708,974 ballots had been cast. Late Wednesday that number jumped to 716,209. And late Friday, it jumped to 717,187.
With his vote margin shrinking against U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, you can see why the governor might think Snipes is playing Santa Claus to a fellow Democrat.
However, people familiar with the supervisor’s website tell us there’s another explanation. They say her site mislabels “ballots counted” as “ballots cast.” It seems a plausible explanation, given how the number of ballots cast grew as ballots were counted. But given that this same phenomenon happened during the primary, why hasn’t it been fixed? Ballots cast should be a fixed number as votes are tabulated.
Even still, Gov. Scott went too far Thursday night when, without any evidence, he said he was “asking” the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate Snipes for “rampant fraud.”
Scott oversees FDLE as governor and a couple years back, he engaged in some shenanigans to fire an FDLE chief who didn’t do his bidding. Now a candidate, Scott sets a dangerous precedent by interjecting police muscle into his race. (FDLE told the Sun Sentinel on Friday that it was not investigating.)
Scott could remove Snipes for misfeasance or malfeasance, as he was asked to do in June by Tim Canova, a law professor who successfully sued Snipes for having too quickly destroyed the paper ballots in his 2016 primary race against U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
But it’s too late for Scott to suspend Snipes. Any appointment he would now make would look blatantly partisan and lack credibility.
Now we need to hear from Snipes. We need answers to questions, including:
- Why did Snipes not know how many ballots were in her possession after the polls closed? Does she not record them as they are received? If so, she should have been able to say how many remained to be counted.
- What took so long to count ballots from Early Voting? We understand that Vote By Mail ballots take longer because signatures must be matched against the voter rolls. But Early Voting ballots are tabulated by machine. Why were they last to cross the finish line?
- Why were 65 other Florida supervisors able to complete their work in a timely way? Saying her office “was not as slow as last year” offers little consolation.
- Why were more votes cast for down-ballot candidates, such as agriculture commissioner and attorney general, than for the marquee U.S. Senate race? The Sun Sentinel found more than 24,700 Broward citizens voted in the governor’s race than in the Senate race. This oddball pattern didn’t show up anywhere else in the state.
- Why can Snipes still not produce a personalized sample ballot, rather than a generic one, to help voters see what they face before entering the polls?
While there is no evidence of fraud, there is a case to be made for an audit to assess Snipes’ ability and competence to manage a major election. These problems must be fixed before the 2020 presidential election.
In May, after her office destroyed the ballots sought by Canova, Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner met with Snipes in Fort Lauderdale. Later, he told Sun Sentinel reporter Anthony Man that he had confidence in “all the supervisors” in the state, saying “they know what they’re doing.”
But because of what she’d done, the governor said he would send state employees to monitor her work in this election. “The Secretary of State’s office will continue to ensure that every Supervisor of Elections understands and follows the law,” Scott’s statement said.
The monitors were on site this week, but they obviously didn’t make a difference.
In the 2016 election, we endorsed Snipes’s opponent in the Democratic primary, saying she was “too disconnected from the office’s operations, too unaware of its failings and too slow to make improvements.” The supervisor’s office, we said, “needs new energy.”
In June, after Canova’s lawsuit, we again questioned Snipes’s competence for this office. We urged her to announce that her current term would be her last.
In the absence of any evidence of fraud to justify Snipe’s immediate removal, we do so again.
Link to Sun Sentinel Editorial