ballots

As Florida ballots head for recounts, the picture is becoming clearer: something is rotten in the county of Broward.

Slate noted suspicious discrepancies in Broward’s voting in an article Thursday. Namely, that while 701,080 votes were cast in Broward for Governor, only 675,216 were cast for the Senate race. Even the Commissioner of Agriculture had more votes cast than Senator, by over 10,000.

The strangeness of this pattern wasn’t repeated anywhere else in Florida. Broward is also taking remarkably long to count its ballots.

Election lawyer Marc Elias attributed the undervotes to machine error, but the oddity in the Senate race wasn’t the only strangeness in Broward by a long shot.

“Don’t try to turn it around to make it seem like I’m making comedy out of this,” Broward Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes said in a heated exchange with local news.

Instead of comedy, Snipes tends to introduce tragedy to Broward’s electoral process. In 2016, a small number of ballots were mailed without the state’s marijuana referendum. Snipes also posted early returns on the 2016 primary before voting even ended. This year, an overseas voter complained of vague instructions and a botched absentee ballot. Snipes also opened mail-in ballots before their authenticity could be determined.

And then, there’s the destroyed ballots.

A judge ruled that in 2016 Snipes violated election law by destroying ballots from a congressional race that prompted Tim Canova, an Independent who has challenged former Democratic National Committee chair (and no stranger to election controversy) Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, to sue Snipes.

Snipes could not be reached for comment at the time of publication.

Canova posted a video Thursday showing Snipes’ Broward County again mishandling ballots. This time, poll workers flagrantly violated the chain of custody procedures for ballots by traveling alone with them in personal vehicles and loading them into the back of a rented truck.

“We seem to be looking at people driving up in private cars, unloading ballots and loading them into a truck,” said Canova. “They don’t seem to be following protocols on chain of custody.”

Canova explained that proper chain of custody procedures require two employees to be with the ballots at all times. An unidentified woman in the video also expresses shock at the way ballots were being handled.

As election watchdog Black Box Voting explains, breaking strict chain of custody procedures introduces an element of “incurable uncertainty” into election results. And Canova is certainly uncertain.

“It’s a closed system, it’s a rigged system, I don’t believe any elections coming out of Broward County,” Canova told Grit Post. “It’s a possibility they could’ve already destroyed the ballots and replaced them with alternative ballots.”

After all, although Snipes wasn’t criminally charged, she was found guilty in civil court of destruction of ballots. Canova has campaigned for a criminal prosecution of Snipes to no avail.

Canova recounted polling in a statistical tie with Wasserman Schultz, both at 34 percent with a Republican candidate at 13 percent. By the last week Canova’s campaign was knocking on 5,000 doors a day and had a massive texting operation.

“When the results came in election night, they gave me five percent of the vote, So, I do find that to be laughable.” Canova said. “I thought ‘Why didn’t they just give me two percent of the vote?’ Because when Saddam Hussain and Mubarak in Egypt and those old soviets, they’d win reelection with 99, 98 percent of the vote.”

Canova said he thought his low performance was a punishment for challenging authorities. Taken alone, Canova’s story can sound like a sore loser calling out, but he contends that the real losers are Broward voters.

And in the context of Snipes’ history of mishandling elections, suspect results in the race for Senate and video of ballots carried in personal cars and loaded into trucks in violation of proper chain of custody procedure, Canova’s story doesn’t sound like a sore loser’s gripes.

It sounds like incurable uncertainty.

 

Katelyn Kivel is a contributing editor and senior legal reporter for Grit Post in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Follow her on Twitter @KatelynKivel.

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