‘The board frequently had no ballots to canvass as [Snipes’] staff had not prepared the necessary materials…’
(Steve Bousquet, Miami Herald/Tampa Bay Times Tallahassee Bureau) Former Broward County Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes has said she plans to challenge Gov. Rick Scott’s recent suspension, which may affect her pension as a 13-year civil servant.
The aftermath of the tumultuous 2018 election and three high-profile recounts brought intense negative scrutiny to Snipes’ operation and accusations of fraud from Republicans in particular, including President Donald Trump.
And a newly released report on Broward’s embarrassing election night may not make Snipes’ fight for vindication any easier.
By law, every county must file a “conduct of election” report with the state, signed by the three members of each county’s canvassing board, which includes two Broward judges and Snipes.
The reports focus on the election, not recounts. The Miami Herald/Tampa Bay Times obtained the reports under the public records law.
Broward’s report cites a series of equipment breakdowns, staffing shortages, procedural violations and changes in ballot totals—problems widely reported in the weeks after the election, such as the “mix-up” involving Snipes’ counting of a group of 205 provisional ballots.
The report notes for the first time that Snipes’ staff brought 25 ballots to the canvassing board for a review of voter intent after the county sent its first set of unofficial election returns to the state.
One reason those ballots weren’t provided faster, the report says, without evidence, was “a threat against a public official.”
“The [canvassing] board determined voter intent for each ballot and instructed staff to keep the 25 logically and physically isolated so they could be identified if needed in a post-election challenge,” the report said.
Broward has 1.2 million voters and nearly 600 voting precincts. On Election Day, 20 ballot scanners jammed or had sensor issues and were replaced.
That’s 20 out of 1,684 scanners, and Broward was not alone. Hillsborough County, for example, said it removed 46 machines during early voting and 11 on Election Day for jams, printing errors or “unable to insert key.” (Those machines are for use by voters with disabilities.)
Broward also reported “multiple mechanical issues” with ballot-on-demand printers, which are used at early voting sites.
Miami-Dade, the state’s most populous county, which received widespread praise for its performance, cited minor problems such as a power disruption that temporarily prevented electronic poll books from working.
Miami-Dade specifically asked the state for further direction on what to do with ballots in which a voter properly fills in the oval next to a chosen candidate’s name and fills in the write-in oval, but does not write in a candidate’s name.
In its supplemental report, Broward added this: “In the future, it would be helpful to plan for additional security when circumstances suggest it will be necessary.”
“Staffing shortages delayed the canvassing throughout the canvassing process,” Broward’s report says. “[There was] insufficient staff to run more than one shift of operators of the DS-850 high-speed tabulators used in the machine recount, but 24-hour operation was necessary for timely completion of returns.”
The report said the county’s vendor flew in extra staff and borrowed two tabulators from another county, but that the county knows of no cases in which a lack of staff prevented voters’ needs from being met.
The report said the county canvassing board was in session virtually every day since Oct. 17, “and, for a significant portion of that time, for 24 hours a day.
“Despite the availability of the canvassing board to promptly canvass all materials,” the report went on, “the board frequently had no ballots to canvass as the SOE (supervisor of elections) staff had not prepared the necessary materials.”
The two judges on Broward’s canvassing board were Betsy Benson, the chair, and Deborah Carpenter-Toye.
(c)2018 Tampa Bay Times (St. Petersburg, Fla.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.