Broward County’s Ballot Bungling Is Bad for Floridians, and America

By Ken Blackwell | November 16, 2018 | 10:30am EST
LAUDERHILL, FL - NOVEMBER 10: Dr. Brenda Snipes, Broward County Supervisor of Elections, makes a statement during a canvassing board meeting on November 10, 2018 in Lauderhill, Florida. Three close midtern election races for governor, senator, and agriculture commissioner are expected to be recounted in Florida. (Photo by Joe Skipper/Getty Images)

Democrat Broward County Supervisor of Elections, Brenda Snipes, insists her vote count is legitimate, despite documented malfeasance, transparency lapses and the alleged appearance of ballots after polls closed. Democrats have even defended her with cries that incompetence is to blame. Outrageous defenses like this are unlikely to comfort any voter for whom voting is a revered privilege and its integrity a sacred trust.

Broward County has been ground zero for voting irregularities for decades. Snipes herself was an emergency appointment by then-Gov. Jeb Bush in 2003 when her predecessor (also a Democrat) was fired for gross incompetence.

Snipes’ reported failures include illegal destruction of ballots, a referendum dropped from ballots, long lines and voting that continued after polling hours, disappearing absentee ballots and mail-in ballots not delivered. Because of her record of mismanagement, the American Civil Rights Union filed suit in 2016 alleging Snipes neglected the integrity and accuracy of voting rolls. This ACRU lawsuit is currently on the docket for the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. It is designed to protect all voters in Broward County.

Meanwhile, some voters might suspect fraud in Snipes’ handling of the 2018 gubernatorial and Senate elections. Broward County voters must wonder whether past problems and current irregularities are serial “one-offs” or a universal culture of election mismanagement.

And what about 2020 elections? Florida is an important state in national elections with slim margins. Donald Trump won in 2016 by only 1.2 percent of the vote. Vote integrity will truly matter for the will of all people in the next cycle.

Voters have high expectations about legally cast votes and count accuracy. One of Snipes’ responsibilities is to certify the number of votes cast when polls close to ensure that late, illegal ballots are not cast. She did not do this in 2018, leaving the door open for abuse.

It’s hard to know how many ballots are improperly cast when Democrats and their political allies resist every attempt to improve election security with ludicrous accusations of “racism” or “voter suppression" leveled at Republicans. It’s far easier to obfuscate with a false narrative than to clean your own electoral house. Although this situation highlights what some may think is systematic Democrat voter fraud, vote differentials are far outside tolerances that trigger reversals. With Rick Scott (R) up over Bill Nelson (D) in the Senate race by about 12,500 votes and Republican Ron DeSantis edging out the Democratic mayor of Tallahassee (currently under FBI investigation) by about 33,650 votes, a change in the current standings is unlikely.

In the 27 recounts that occurred in statewide elections from 2000-2015, the mean swing in the counts was 282 votes. In Florida’s contentious 2000 recount, the notorious hanging chads brought Democratic presidential nominee Al Gore only 1,247 additional votes — not nearly enough to overtake Republican George W. Bush.

Post-election scrutiny and audits of voter integrity are critical, especially as the process becomes more publicly vitriolic. Enforced voting hours, the mailing and counting of absentee ballots, ascertaining that only legal citizens vote and making sure ballots stay in place at polling stations until they are formally collected are all laws that must be upheld, not just to ensure that the winner actually wins, but to honor every American voter. If state or local officials cannot or will not uphold voter integrity, then it becomes necessary for individuals and organizations to step up.

When just a few hundred Floridian votes initially separated Gore and Bush in 2000, chaos erupted. At that time, the American Civil Rights Union filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court that helped guide its decision to force election officials to follow the law. The ACRU filed its 2016 lawsuit against Snipes because the handwriting was already on the wall that there was more manipulation and incompetence to come. Even if Snipes retires, the integrity of Florida voting must be pursued by all legal avenues available. That George Soros funded groups aiding Snipes in her defense against the ACRU lawsuit adds yet another layer of concern.

It is in these chaotic moments that the United States loses some of its moral high ground in monitoring foreign elections. It is hard to make the case that we should push democracy abroad when we seem incapable of counting votes at home.

Correcting course should not be a partisan effort, but an American one.

Former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Human Rights Commission and former secretary of state for Ohio, Ken Blackwell is a Senior Fellow at the American Civil Rights Union and a member of its policy board.


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