Broward Elections Supervisor Illegally Destroyed Ballots in Wasserman Schultz Race, Judge Rules

via Sun Sentinal .  | POSTED ON: 05/14/2018

The Broward County Supervisor of Elections Office violated state and federal laws by destroying ballots from a 2016 Congressional race too soon — and while the ballots were the subject of a lawsuit against the office, a judge has ruled.

Based on that ruling, Florida’s Department of State will send election experts to the Broward elections office in the upcoming election “to ensure that all laws are followed,” the governor’s office said. It could also cost the elections office more than $200,000 to pay attorney’s fees for Tim Canova, the defeated candidate who sued the office.

The decision stems from Canova’s bid to unseat Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz in the Democratic primary, a race he lost convincingly, at about 57 percent to 43 percent, or 28,809 votes to 21,907.

Canova, who was checking for voting irregularities in the race, sought to look at the paper ballots in March 2017 and took Elections Supervisor Brenda Snipes to courtthree months later when her office hadn’t fulfilled his request. Snipes approved the destruction of the ballots in September, signing a certification that said no court cases involving the ballots were pending.

Snipes called the action a “mistake” during testimony she gave in the case, saying the boxes were mislabeled and there was “nothing on my part that was intentional” about destroying the contested ballots.

“When I sign, I sign folders filled with information,” Snipes said in her testimony, later adding: “I trust my staff. They have the responsibility of giving me information that’s correct.”

Circuit Judge Raag Singhal ruled Friday that Snipes wrongly destroyed public records because:

— The elections office is required to maintain the ballots in federal elections for 22 months, while Snipes destroyed the ballots after 12 months, which is the retention period for state elections.

— The ballots were the subject of a pending lawsuit, so it would take a court order from the judge in the case to allow their destruction.

Snipes “has not presented any evidence refuting that the public records sought were destroyed while this case was pending before this court,” Singhal said.

Snipes will appeal the decision, said her attorney, Burnadette Norris-Weeks.

“We think the judge is wrong,” Norris-Weeks said.

The elections office never refused to provide access to the ballots, she said.

Instead, it rejected a request by Canova to use outside equipment to scan the ballots, Norris-Weeks said. Also, it didn’t receive a partial payment to cover the costs of the public records request until days before the suit was filed and the scanned copies of the ballots it can currently provide are “accurate and inherently reliable,” she said.

“It was a mistake [destroying the original ballots], but the ballots were preserved,” Norris-Weeks said. “They were scanned shortly after the election.”

It’s not known if the judge’s ruling would lead to any charges. A spokeswoman for Broward State Attorney Michael Satz said the office had not been aware of the ruling, but would obtain a copy of the judge’s order and look into it.

Canova said he contacted the Federal Bureau of Investigation twice in recent months prior to the judge’s ruling because it appeared federal ballot retention requirements were violated, but he said he has received no response from the agency.

The ruling does allow Canova to have the attorney fees he has paid be reimbursed by the elections office. Leonard Collins, his attorney, said those costs exceed $200,000 already.

Canova has also gotten the state to take interest in his case. The governor’s office said the state election monitoring will be so “the citizens of Broward County can have the efficient, properly run election they deserve.”

“The Secretary of State’s office will continue to ensure that every Supervisor of Elections understands and follows the law,” the governor’s statement said.

Norris-Weeks said she isn’t sure what type of monitoring is envisioned and sees it as an effort by Republican state leaders to get some control over the heavily Democratic county.

Canova, who is a professor at Nova Southeastern University, would like to see Snipes lose her job.

“I think dismissal is an appropriate remedy,” Canova said.

The judge’s ruling cited a previous case that held “dismissal was an appropriate sanction for failing to preserve evidence ‘even though the destruction of evidence may have resulted from negligence rather than an attempt to obstruct justice.’”

Collins said Snipes failed in one of her most important duties.

“He was absolutely stonewalled by the supervisor of elections,” Collins said of Canova. “When they were required to provide the records to us, they destroyed them.”

Canova, who had planned a primary rematch against Wasserman Schultz this year, announced in April that he was leaving the Democratic Party. He is running in the race in November as a candidate with no party affiliation.

Update on 2016 Destroyed Ballots: Canova vs Wasserman Schultz

by Tim Canova

March 26, 2018

After our 2016 run against Debbie Wasserman Schultz and her corrupt political machine, a number of election integrity experts expressed serious concerns about the official results. Rather than ignoring their research, I decided to try to verify the vote by inspecting the ballots under Florida’s public records law.

All too often, election frauds are swept under the rug, especially when it’s establishment Democrats cheating progressive and grassroots Democrats. We saw this happen in state after state where Bernie Sanders and his campaign were cheated. In New York City alone, more than 200,000 citizens were purged from the voting rolls in the days prior to New York’s 2016 presidential primary. The New York City Board of Elections admitted to all this, and yet there’s been no real punishment for the massive fraud.

I was determined to shine a light on any corruption that may have rigged my own election results against Wasserman Schultz. I felt that I owed nothing less to the thousands of supporters who stepped up to make donations and volunteer their time to my campaign. So, when Dr. Brenda Snipes, the Broward Supervisor of Elections stonewalled our public records request, I filed a lawsuit last June to enforce our rights.

Incredibly, while the lawsuit was pending, the Supervisor destroyed all of our paper ballots in violation of federal law!

We must not let this scandal involving Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s own reelection be swept under the rug. Please click here to help us by donating what you can. I have invested thousands of dollars of my own money to seeing this lawsuit through. We need your help now more than ever. With your support, we will press the case forward and expose the full extend of this wrongdoing.

Earlier this week, we hand delivered a letter to the Florida Secretary of State, Ken Detzner, the state’s top elections official, informing him of the evidence uncovered in our lawsuit and urging him to conduct a full investigation into Dr. Snipes’ misconduct.

We also followed up with letters to hundreds of state and local elected officials and Democratic and Republican party leaders throughout Florida, urging them to join in our call for action.

We will not be silent or complicit in the frauds and riggings of our elections. This has not been easy. We have taken a lot of heat from the establishment and we have had to divert significant campaign resources to our lawsuit and inspection efforts. Meanwhile, Wasserman Schultz has quietly been raising hundreds of thousands of dollars from corporate interests. That’s why I need your help now. Please click here to chip in whatever you can to help us fight back and remove Wasserman Schultz from office!

We will continue to walk the walk when it comes to demanding a real democracy. When we see election corruption, we will demand election integrity!

With your help, we will not back down.

Click here to sign up and join our people powered campaign to elect a true Progressive to Congress!

You may also donate by check or money order made out to “Tim Canova For Congress.” Here’s our address:

Tim Canova For Congress
P.O. Box 22–1868
Hollywood, FL 33022

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