By Tim Canova | November 9, 2018 | Link to Sun Sentinel Op-Ed
For two years, I have been warning that the Broward Supervisor of Elections office is a swamp of corruption. I’ve been urging Gov. Rick Scott to fire Supervisor Brenda Snipes, clean out the office and start criminal investigations. I’m sure Gov. Scott now wishes he had heeded those warnings.
In 2016, I took a leave of absence from Nova Southeastern University, where I am a tenured law professor, to run for Congress in a Democratic primary against Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz. After I lost by about 13 percentage points, I sought to inspect the ballots to verify the vote, as permitted under Florida’s public records law.
Unfortunately, Snipes stonewalled my requests for months, and I was forced to file a lawsuit in mid-2017. Early this year, Snipes admitted in a sworn videotaped deposition that she had destroyed all the paper ballots. Several months later, the Florida Circuit Court granted me summary judgment, and found that Snipes had violated numerous state and federal statutes, including some punishable as felonies with up to five years in prison.
Snipes has claimed there was no harm to the public because we could inspect the digital scanned images of the ballots. But there’s no way to inspect the software of the electronic voting machines that create those scanned ballot images. The software is “proprietary” — the private property of the software vendors hired by the supervisor.
Why would anyone run for office — or even vote — while we have this awful system of black-box voting with electronic voting machines that are inherently susceptible to hacking and software manipulation? I’ve come to believe the only way to have fair elections is to move to a system of 100 percent hand-marked paper ballots that are counted by hand, in public, by nonpartisan and trans-partisan teams of citizens.
Both before and after the court ruled against Snipes, I warned that if she were kept in office, there would be more official misconduct in elections. None of our law enforcement agencies — the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Florida Attorney General or the U.S. Attorney for South Florida — were interested in starting criminal investigations.
After Democratic Party leaders failed to support any investigation, I decided to leave the party and run again as a No Party Affiliation (NPA) independent candidate. I was very clear that I did not expect a fair election and that Snipes would likely try to punish me by rigging the election again. But I wanted to use the campaign to expose as much of the corruption in our elections as possible.
My recent campaign as an independent caught fire in the final weeks. We saw an upsurge in support when a Republican news outlet reported on a Republican poll that showed us in a dead heat with Wasserman Schultz, and the Republican candidate far behind.
In early voting, we saw an upsurge of new voters, especially young voters who don’t normally participate in midterm elections. Hundreds of volunteers stepped up, canvassers were knocking on 5,000 doors a day by the end, and we had volunteers at almost every Early Voting site and Election Day site, where we witnessed a steady stream of voters from across the political spectrum breaking our way.
On election night, Snipes’ office reported that I had received less than 5 percent of the vote, a vote tally so low it’s absolutely ludicrous. Somehow, we’re supposed to believe that I got half the number of votes in a general election than I received in a closed primary, and at a time when my name recognition was so much higher than two years ago.
Today, everyone is acutely aware of the problems in Snipes’ office. Both parties in Florida are responsible for this election nightmare. Neither was willing to stand up for the rule of law. Democrats took no heed when Snipes was photographed campaigning with Wasserman Schultz barely a week before the recent election. They should not be surprised that Republicans now suspect a rigged election.
Unfortunately, nobody seems to care about election rigging until it happens to them. But this problem is bigger than any candidate. It should concern all of us as Americans.
Sadly, I no longer trust any election result reported in Broward County. There needs to be an investigation of every election that’s taken place here. I call on Gov. Scott to do what he should have done many months ago: immediately fire Brenda Snipes and replace her with someone with integrity who is more interested in fair elections than in favoring particular candidates or parties.
Tim Canova is a professor of law and public finance at Nova Southeastern University in Davie/Ft. Lauderdale.
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