Embattled Broward County Elections Supervisor Brenda Snipes could be suspended over her handling of the 2018 midterm election.
Here's what we know
According to a report by Politico citing “insiders and lawmakers,” Snipes is likely to be removed from office by either current Gov. Rick Scott (R) or his presumed successor Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.). But even an upset victory by Tallahassee Mayor and gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum may not mean that Snipes's job is safe.
Democrats are reportedly also tired of her performance. Florida state Sen. Kevin Rader told Politico that Snipes had become a problem for his party. In Broward, there are more than twice the number of registered Democrats (592,344) as Republicans (252,011). Broward should be a Democratic stronghold, but the issues with vote counting have cast a cloud over that. “We’re talking about Democratic votes here; this is a huge Democratic count,” Rader said. “So from a partisan standpoint, it’s like, ‘Are you kidding me?’”
Burnadette Norris-Weeks, an attorney for Snipes, dismissed the outcry against Snipes as “political gamesmanship at its best,” saying that Broward and Palm Beach County Supervisors of Elections “have done nothing more than count all votes as required by law. Ridiculous!”
Politico cited sources from within her own party who said that Snipes planned to quit on her own. However, it is not clear when this would happen.
Both the U.S. Senate and the gubernatorial election this year are heading for a recount in Florida. The race for Senate is now within .25 percentage point, which triggers a recount by hand.
Who is Snipes?
Snipes was appointed by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush after her predecessor, Miriam Oliphant, was removed from her position following a series of bungled elections including the infamous 2000 Bush vs. Gore fiasco. Oliphant had tried to get her job back, but Democratic voters in the county denied her attempts.
Back when she first took the job, Snipes's husband said that she had not wanted it. “A lot of things appeared to have gone wrong,” she said, according to the Miami Herald. “And she knew whoever went in there would have to make some corrections, would have to right some of the wrongs that had been done.”
In May, a Florida state circuit judge ruled that Snipes had broken the law when she destroyed paper ballots a month after the state's 2016 primary election, before Democratic candidate Tim Canova could review them. Canova, who had run unsuccessfully against Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D), asked Scott at the time to suspend Snipes for “malfeasance and misfeasance.” Scott declined to do so. In Florida, the governor is permitted to remove the elections supervisor for “incompetence.”
What happened this year?
Scott filed a lawsuit against Snipes on Thursday, which stated that “[t]wo days after voting has concluded, the Supervisor of Elections is unwilling to disclose records revealing how many electors voted, how many ballots have been canvassed, and how many ballots remain to be canvassed.”
The county has also failed to update vote tallies every 45 minutes, in accordance with state law.
On Friday, a judge ruled that Snipes had to immediately allow inspection of voter records. An attorney for the county had argued that Snipes could not produce records as required by law because she was too busy counting ballots. The judge did not accept this line of reasoning.
Counties in Florida has until noon on Saturday to submit their final vote totals. Broward County failed to meet this deadline. Indicative of their attitude toward the entire process, the Broward County Canvassing Board took a recess 25 minutes before this deadline.
Snipes has also admitted that her team had mixed 22 illegal ballots into a batch of 205 provisional ballots and then decided to treat the entire batch as legal votes. On Saturday, Snipes said that it “seems unfair to me to disenfranchise 205 voters at the expense of a small number.” She added “And if that’s being unfair to anyone, I don’t think it’s a large enough number to affect the difference between who comes out of the recount as a victor.”