A Broward County, Florida circuit judge just ruled in favor of Tim Canova — who ran against Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Florida) in 2016.
Canova sued Broward County Elections Supervisor Brenda Snipes following her destruction of paper ballots in Canova’s unsuccessful 2016 bid to represent Florida’s 23rd Congressional District, in which he ran in the Democratic primary against then-Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz. According to state and federal law, paper copies of ballots must be preserved for 22 months following an election.
However, as Judge Raag Singhal wrote in his ruling, Snipes destroyed the ballots after only 12 months, arguing that her digital scans of those ballots were sufficient to verify the vote tally.
“[I]t is undisputed that the original paper ballots were destroyed,” Singhal wrote. “Defendant has not presented any evidence refuting that the public records sought were destroyed while this case was pending before this court.”
According to Politico, Snipes signed an order to destroy the ballots on September 1, 2017, less than three months after Canova filed his lawsuit demanding Snipes produce them. The document Snipes signed specified that there shouldn’t be any pending litigation prior to the destruction of the ballots. In a phone interview, Tim Canova said he felt vindicated following the ruling from Judge Singhal.
“We have been criticized for bringing the lawsuit. We have been criticized for even seeking to inspect the ballots,” Canova told Grit Post. “I wouldn’t go so far as to say this is justice, but I do feel vindicated bringing the lawsuit.”
Canova, who is running again to replace Debbie Wasserman Schultz in Florida’s 23rd Congressional District — this time as an independent — said he feels the only way justice could be served is if Snipes is removed from her position as county elections supervisor and investigated for violating federal law.
“There are an awful lot of people who don’t think [the election] will be fair and impartial as long as she remains in her position,” Canova said. “You can imagine how I feel — she’s the person who ordered the destruction of all the paper ballots in my election in violation of federal law.”
“I certainly don’t have confidence in her ability to supervise a fair election,” he added.
Canova, a law professor at Nova Southeastern University, said Snipes’ argument that digital scans of ballots were sufficient falls flat, as it would be impossible to verify election results without the original paper ballots.
“Ballots could have been lost or replaced before the scanning. Ballot on demand machines could have produced extra ballots. Some digital scans could have accidentally or deliberately have been repeated numerous times. Digital images themselves can be altered,” Canova told Grit Post.
As of this writing, there are no criminal charges pending against Snipes. Florida Governor Rick Scott (R) said the Florida Secretary of State will send an elections expert to “monitor” Snipes and ensure she conducts a fair and impartial election. In his ruling granting summary judgment to Canova, Judge Singhal cited past legal precedent saying there was cause for Snipes to be dismissed from her position.
Carl Gibson is co-publisher of Grit Post. His work has previously been published in The Guardian, The Washington Post, The Houston Chronicle, Al-Jazeera America, and NPR, among others. Follow him on Twitter @crgibs or send him an email at carl at gritpost dot com.