Florida Is Ground Zero for Election Administration Problems - Again

Florida is once again in the news for its election administration problems.  Of course, it is unfair to say "Florida," as it is really just a handful of counties in south Florida that perennially find it difficult to follow Florida's election laws and procedures.  Even the counties devastated by Hurricane Michael less than a month before Election Day managed to count their ballots on time.  But not Broward or Palm Beach Counties.

Broward and Palm Beach rose to election-world fame with all their problems in the 2000 presidential election that eventually led to the Bush v. Gore decision.  But in the 18 years since that election, they have not fixed the problems, particularly in Broward County.  The National Review's editorial board wrote yesterday:

[Broward County Supervisor of Elections Brenda] Snipes has held her position since 2003, in which year her predecessor, Miriam Oliphant, was suspended for “grave neglect, mismanagement and incompetence” and, quite literally, marched out of her office. Alas, Snipes has proven no better at fulfilling her duties than was Oliphant. On Friday, a court in Broward County found that Snipes was guilty of violating both Florida’s public-records laws and the state’s constitution by failing to provide mandatory updates to the public, and it ordered the immediate release of the missing information. As that ruling was coming down, Snipes’s office was laying out more lawsuit bait. According to the Miami Herald, an election worker found bags of “uncounted early ballots” in the Broward County office — ballots whose provenance could not be established. Snipes, meanwhile, was busy mixing together rejected provisional ballots and accepted provisional ballots, processing them all together. She justified her decision to add these provisional ballots to the official tally on the grounds that it would be better to include some illegal votes than to nix the legal ones with which, by her own incompetence, they had been blended.

Such behavior is by no means out of character. This year alone, Snipes has been reprimanded by the courts twice: once, in May, for illegally destroying ballots during the 2016 Democratic primary, in violation of both state and federal law; and again, in August, for illegally opening mail-in ballots in secret. How long, we wonder, does it take to establish a pattern?

Although Ron DeSantis and Rick Scott hold electoral leads that are unlikely to be reversed, both races remain close enough to have triggered recounts. One does not need to believe that Snipes is engaged in widespread fraud to grasp that her rank incompetence is guaranteed to diminish faith in that process. Florida has a host of laws on the books that were designed to ensure that its citizens can track elections in as close to real time as possible. When those laws are ignored — and when the press is met with hostility, defiance, and indifference — it becomes more difficult to guarantee that nothing untoward is going on. During elections, “Trust us” is an extraordinary request, even from a figure of unimpeachable record. From Brenda Snipes, it is farcical.

The inability of the counties in south Florida to count their ballots on time and their unwillingness to provide the information to the public as required by law has provided an opening for Democratic attorneys, led by Marc Elias, who touts his success in changing election outcomes during recounts, to attempt to steal the Scott-Nelson Senate race for Senator Nelson.  A large part of this success is due to changing established election administration rules after the election.  A lawsuit filed Thursday requested that the court invalidate Florida's vote-by-mail signature matching requirements and require that any ballot with a signature mismatch be counted.  Today, the DNC sued to require Florida to accept mail ballots postmarked by Election Day, instead of ones received by 7:00 PM on Election Day as required by state law.

Currently, there is a machine recount occurring statewide in the Senate election, with results due Thursday.  Palm Beach County has already said that it will not meet the deadline.  A hand recount is expected to follow.  Follow the RNLA on Twitter for the latest updates on what is happening in Florida.