A very famous election lawyer once told me: in elections it is “sometimes hard to tell where the incompetence ends and the fraud begins.” In Florida, Broward County Election Official Brenda Snipes may be the poster child for this saying. Earlier this year, Brenda Snipes confirmed the fact that non-citizens and ineligible felons were voting in Broward County. Last year, Snipes “engaged in ongoing violations of Florida law governing the canvassing of vote-by-mail ballots [absentee ballots]. [T]ens of thousands of vote-by-mail ballots in Broward County are being opened by your staff: (1) before they have been canvassed by the county canvassing board; and (2) without providing the public the opportunity to review or file a protest against the canvass of a ballot believed to be legally deficient.”
Before the election last year, her office mistakenly sent out some absentee ballots to voters that failed to list a popular medical marijuana measure that ultimately passed by wide margins, but not before the office was sued by the Florida chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. In another case during the election, the office mailed out about 1,700 ballots that had the word “no” in Creole where it should have said “wi” for “yes.”
And now, Snipes is at it again:
The election supervisor in Florida’s second-most populous county broke the law by destroying ballots cast in last year’s congressional primary involving Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, according to election-law experts across the political spectrum. The congresswoman's opponent has sued to get access to the ballots.
Snipes’ office, however, destroyed the paper ballots in question in October — in the middle of Canova’s lawsuit — but says it’s lawful because the office made high-quality electronic copies. Canova’s legal team found out after the fact last month.
Federal law is clear that such records have to be maintained for 22 months. Snipes is using a legally dubious (at best) argument that Florida law supersedes federal law, but as another Florida election official states:
Of the state’s 67 county elections officials, Bay County Elections Supervisor Mark Andersen is recognized as one of the most high-tech. He said he relies on state law allowing him to destroy paper ballots after making high-quality images of the records. But, he says, there’s “no way” he would destroy ballots that are the subject of a lawsuit. Other elections supervisors said they, too, would never destroy the hard copy of ballots in a lawsuit. [emphasis added].
Snipes is seemingly incompetent, trying to hide something, or both. Regardless, she shows the need for poll watchers and transparency to oversee the voting process.