Broward News

Here’s Everything That’s Gone Wrong for Broward’s Supervisor of Elections This Year

By the end of the day, we should know who will be the next president. Key word: should. As we all learned back in 2000, things can end up going very wrong.

This time around, though, if we end up in a deadlock thanks to some ballot-related debacle, chances are good that Broward County election officials will be to blame. Whether due to corruption or incompetence, there has been one scandal after another this year. And chances are we haven’t heard the last of it.

Here are some of the highlights from the past year:

1. One of the biggest questions of this election was missing from absentee ballots.
This one hurts so much. Just when it looked like medical marijuana actually had a chance of passing in Florida, some Broward County voters received their absentee ballots only to notice that they were conspicuously missing Amendment 2. Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes claimed it was an “isolated incident,” which no one is buying — especially not NORML, which tried unsuccessfully to sue Snipes over the mistake, claiming that she’d botched the election. Meanwhile, voters were told they could request replacement ballots if theirs were missing Amendment 2. But how many stoners do you think either a) won't bother or b) didn’t notice in the first place?

2. Roger Stone hallucinated and nearly incited mob violence.

In October, Roger Stone, Fort Lauderdale’s right-wing conspiracy theorist in residence, claimed Hillary Clinton held a closed-door meeting with Brenda Snipes. Both sides quickly denied it, and Stone later ended up retracting his claims after the video that he’d promised was on the way never ended up surfacing. To a rationally minded person, it would seem clear that the meeting never happened, except maybe in one of Stone’s fever dreams. But Trump supporters are not exactly known for their grasp on logic, and you can be sure that if Trump loses the election, Snipes will be accused of rigging the vote.

3. Primary results were posted early, which is a felony.
Yup — releasing results before the polls close is a felony. And that’s exactly what the the Supervisor of Elections did on the day of the August 30 primary. An hour before voting had finished, the tally of absentee ballots and early voting results mysteriously appeared on the SOE website. VR Systems, a third-party contractor, later ended up taking the blame for the error. And prosecutors concluded that no crime was committed because it was pretty obviously a mistake. But it doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in the system.

4. An answer was printed wrong on a whole bunch of ballots.
Did you know that Brenda Snipes makes nearly $150,000 a year? Ponder that while you consider the following facts. In October, some 173,000 ballots were sent out with a typo. Next to the question about a proposed sales tax increase, they say “YES/SI/NO” instead of “YES/SI/WI.” Confusing, right? Well, when asked about it by the Sun-Sentinel, Snipes said she didn’t plan to do anything about it and hoped that voters wouldn’t be confused. Clearly the lesson here is that the American educational system has a misguided sense of priorities: Schools should stop worrying about STEM and start training more of their students to become Supervisors of Elections since apparently you can screw up, refuse to fix your mistakes, and still make a six-figure salary. That’s the definition of living the dream.

5. The GOP complained about the mishandling of absentee ballots… just in time to fuel even more conspiracy theories.
The smoking gun: An attorney sent by the Republican National Lawyers Association to watch the election in Broward found that Snipes was only allowing the public to observe ballot collection for half an hour a day. (By state law, anyone who wants to watch the absolutely riveting process at any given time is allowed to do so.) Snipes later explained to the Sun-Sentinel that she wasn’t aware of the law and that no one had ever asked to observe the ballot collection process before, both of which are probably true statements. But given that Trump supporters are actively looking for evidence that the election is rigged (and might or might not be planning on using that evidence as an incentive to start a revolution), you'd think that the people in charge of administering it would be extra careful to do everything by the book.

6. Oh, yeah, and some voters still haven’t gotten their absentee ballots.
Yes, still. Yes, today is Election Day. No, they’re probably not going to be able to vote (unless of course they raise enough money to buy a very expensive last-minute plane ticket to Florida). Yes, they did let the Supervisor of Elections know — repeatedly — before November rolled around. Maybe it’s time that Brenda Snipes retires.
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Antonia Farzan is a fellow at New Times. After receiving a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University, she moved to South Florida to pursue her dream of seeing a manatee and meeting DJ Khaled (ideally at the same time). She was born and raised in Rhode Island and has a BA in classics from Hamilton College.