Broward County Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes is now the subject of a lawsuit by the Senate campaign of Gov. Rick Scott. But this is not the first time Snipes has dealt with controversy in her 15-year stint as the county’s elections chief.
She was appointed to the elected position after her predecessor was removed for incompetence.
In a move usually reserved for elected officials accused of crimes or serious ethical violations, then-Gov. Jeb Bush removed Broward County Supervisor of Elections Miriam Oliphant from office in Nov. 2003, writing in a letter about her mismanagement of the elections office: “To leave Ms. Oliphant in office would put the voting rights of every citizen of Broward County in chronic jeopardy.” The Broward elections office had a $423,000 deficit, and a disastrous 2002 primary election had seen polls open late and close early, plus 268 uncounted votes were found a year afterward, stuffed in a filing cabinet. They had never been counted. Bush named Snipes, a former principal and school administrator, to replace Oliphant. Snipes won election for the office in 2004 and has been re-elected every four years since then.
Things got off to a slightly rocky start
In her first test as supervisor, Snipes had to scramble when a handful of mail-in ballots were sent to the wrong addresses ahead of the March 2004 presidential primary. But Snipes took full responsibility and had the office recheck addresses on remaining mail-ins. A week before that election, her office informed 100,000 voters that their polling place had moved.
Despite all that, things went smoothly on Election Day, and Snipes passed her first test in office.
Mail-in ballots mysteriously vanish
By the general election in 2004, problems were more pronounced. Some 58,000 mail-in ballots were not delivered, and while the post office tried to figure out what happened, Snipes’ office scrambled to send out replacements.
Counting and counting and counting …
In an omen of elections to come, the Sun Sentinel reported that the Broward elections office was still counting ballots days after the 2004 election.
And counting and counting
In the 2006 election, after the rest of the state had finished tallying votes, Broward was still counting because of the possibility that some votes had been left in machines at polling places.
Also in 2006, one mail-in ballot was sent to Snipes’ office with an Inverted Jenny for a stamp. The stamp, featuring a misprint of an upside down plane, is among the rarest and most valuable in stamp collecting. It turned out to be a fake.
The golden years
The 2008 election was lauded as error free, with “no meltdowns, no hanging chads, no thousands of missing ballots.” The 2010 election was similarly noncontroversial.
Despite Gov. Rick Scott’s attempt to purge felons from the voter rolls after he was elected in 2010, at least five felons managed to vote in Broward County in 2012. That year, people were still waiting in line to vote past 9 p.m., and some locations ran out of ballots. A week after the election, almost 1,000 uncounted ballots turned up in a warehouse.
And counting and counting and …
Following those long lines, Florida was the 50th state to report election totals in 2012. After at first defending her office’s performance, Snipes eventually agreed to pursue reforms to combat long lines and misplaced ballots.
Snipes gets sued
Scott’s is hardly the first lawsuit against Snipes. In 2014, she was sued over confusing ballot layout, which may have again been a problem in this year’s election.
Election results ahead of polls closing
In the August 2016 primary, the Broward Supervisor of Elections office posted election results for early and mail-in voting on its website before polls closed at 7 p.m., a violation of state law. Snipes blamed a third-party vendor.
Ahead of the November 2016 election, a few voters complained their mail-in ballots were missing the medical marijuana amendment that passed that year.
Snipes sued again
Tim Canova, an independent candidate for Congress who lost to U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, this year, previously lost to her in a 2016 Democratic primary. He sued to see the ballots from that primary in March 2017, and Snipes ordered the ballots destroyed in September 2017, signing a certification that no court cases centering on the ballots were pending. Under federal law, those ballots were required to be kept 22 months after the election. Instead, Snipes had them destroyed after 12 months, the time they have to be kept following state elections.
Gov. Scott’s Senate campaign sued elections supervisors in Broward and Palm Beach county Thursday night, citing possible “fraud” and “incompetence.” In remarks in front of the governor’s mansion in Tallahassee, Scott seemed aghast that voting in Broward had taken so long — though Snipes’ history will show that vote counting in Broward County has been a days-long affair most of the time.
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