Last night CBS News’ John Dickerson tweeted “The Florida voting system is the Florida Man of voting systems.” But at least Florida Man combines stupid fun entertainment with incompetence and hubris, as opposed to depressing levels of corruption and idiocy.
Comes now Dr. Brenda C. Snipes, the key election official in Broward County, Florida has presided for the past 72 hours over a level of bureaucratic incompetence – in the best spin of the situation – or utter corruption in the worst when it comes to counting the ballots from her county.
Last night Governor and would-be Senator Rick Scott announced he was filing a lawsuit against her – not one claiming anything about the ballots being counted, but simply demanding that she live up to the regulatory obligation to tell us how many ballots there are. Again, this is not a lawsuit about counting, just about knowing how many ballots you have left to count, which is required to be disclosed by law.
This demand to know the facts is being described by some Democrats as an attempt to prevent votes being counted. That’s how ridiculous the situation is.
Here’s the situation: Florida law 102.141 4(b) details the process by which ballots shall be counted, and it requires that within 30 minutes of polls closing, you publish an estimated count of the ballots in hand, regularly updated afterward. Every other county in Florida other than Broward has done this. Broward’s Dr. Snipes has not. Local journalists have shouted questions at her, and the local officials have demured or said she was too busy or said she was “taking a break”.
In my humble opinion, “she’s taking a break” is the greatest bureaucratic incompetence excuse I have ever heard. The point is that Florida election officials will apparently tell you what they are required to tell you at a time of their choosing, not before.
What is infuriating about Florida and Broward is that the county is required to tell us how many total ballots they have, and they refuse. There is no legitimate reason justification for that. None.
The media – both local and national – should be raising all sorts of hell about the absence of this easily tabulated information. Every day that we do not have a total tabulation of the ballots in this key county, with the most basic level of transparency, the more Republican voters will with all good reason begin to believe the election results are being manipulated.
When you have a sitting Senator from the state in Marco Rubio sounding the alarm over this, in a way that obviously is an embarrassment to the state, you understand something terrible is happening.
More here from Brian Burgess on the ground in Florida.
“The newly counted ballots, which are breaking almost 3-to-1 in favor of Democrats, have triggered a likely hand recount, a machine recount, a lawsuit, a law enforcement investigation, and accusations from Republicans that Democrats are literally trying to steal the election…
“In a secluded room away from the well-wishers gathered at his victory party in Naples, Florida, Scott’s team did some basic math and determined the remaining uncounted precincts couldn’t possibly contain enough Democrat votes for Nelson to overcome the 60,000-vote deficit. At midnight, Scott claimed victory in a subdued speech, then retired to bed.
“When Republicans woke the next morning, they were stunned to learn Scott’s lead had shrunk by 22,000 votes, a seemingly impossible mathematical feat. Most of the newly counted ballots came from Broward County, but some were added from Palm Beach County (yes, that one). With Scott’s lead now down to just 38,000 votes, murmurs of a potential recount began to build. By mid-afternoon, more cartons of Democrat-leaning ballots had been added to the statewide total, trimming Scott’s margin over Nelson to around 30,000 votes.
“Even at that point, Republicans didn’t seem overly concerned. After all, 30,000 votes is a lot to overcome, especially when all that remained to be counted were a few handfuls of provisional ballots, overseas military ballots likely favoring Republicans, and some straggling vote-by-mail and early ballots. And while the governor’s race had also tightened, it remained outside the mandatory recount margin.
“That all changed on Thursday morning, when Republicans woke for the second day in a row to learn that overnight, still more Democrat votes had been dumped into the system, cutting Scott’s lead by 8,000 votes, putting it well within the mandatory hand-recount range.
“Reporters, by now curious about why Broward County was still counting ballots when hurricane-ravaged Bay County had their work wrapped up on election night, asked Broward County Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes if she knew how many uncounted ballots remained.
“Not sure. I’m really not sure. But we are working on those,” she told CBS 4 News in Miami.
“A few hours later, Snipes posted another 11,300 ballots to the state’s Division of Elections. Those new votes favored Democrats by more than 2-to-1, helping Bill Nelson close the gap even further, but also triggering mandatory recounts in the governor’s race, and flipping the race for agriculture commissioner from Republican to Democrat.”
What’s worse, according to Scott’s lawsuit and as this Florida State University professor details, Snipes has denied access to their campaign to view the actual creation of new ballots – ones that are being created in replacement of purportedly damaged ballots submitted by voters:
18/ State law *recognizes* that the literal creation of new ballots to be counted is one of the most sensitive and vulnerable steps in the process. That's why it requires the creation of replacement ballots must occur "in the presence of witnesses." Fla. Stat. 101.5614(4)(a)
— michaelmorley11 (@michaelmorley11) November 9, 2018
19/ @FlGovScott lawsuit provides sworn evidence that the Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections prohibited his campaign's reps from monitoring the creation of replacement ballots. Election officials are filling out new ballots, but the candidate's reps apparently couldn't see
— michaelmorley11 (@michaelmorley11) November 9, 2018
Snipes is clearly an election official with a number of dubious past decisions, including many that have put her in the courtroom. Her emphatic and continued refusal to do what she is legally required to do – tell us how many ballots there are – is astounding. No matter the party that benefits or that currently stands in the lead in Florida, her behavior is unconscionable if voters are to have any faith in this process being transparent and unimpeachable.