Elections

Fire Brenda Snipes

Brenda Snipes in 2004 (Gary I Rothstein/Reuters)

Brenda Snipes, the supervisor of elections in Florida’s Broward County, does not deserve to be within a thousand miles of any election office anywhere in these United States. She should be fired at the earliest possible opportunity.

Snipes has held her position since 2003, in which year her predecessor, Miriam Oliphant, was suspended for “grave neglect, mismanagement and incompetence” and, quite literally, marched out of her office. Alas, Snipes has proven no better at fulfilling her duties than was Oliphant. On Friday, a court in Broward County found that Snipes was guilty of violating both Florida’s public-records laws and the state’s constitution by failing to provide mandatory updates to the public, and it ordered the immediate release of the missing information. As that ruling was coming down, Snipes’s office was laying out more lawsuit bait. According to the Miami Herald, an election worker found bags of “uncounted early ballots” in the Broward County office — ballots whose provenance could not be established. Snipes, meanwhile, was busy mixing together rejected provisional ballots and accepted provisional ballots, processing them all together. She justified her decision to add these provisional ballots to the official tally on the grounds that it would be better to include some illegal votes than to nix the legal ones with which, by her own incompetence, they had been blended.

Such behavior is by no means out of character. This year alone, Snipes has been reprimanded by the courts twice: once, in May, for illegally destroying ballots during the 2016 Democratic primary, in violation of both state and federal law; and again, in August, for illegally opening mail-in ballots in secret. How long, we wonder, does it take to establish a pattern?

Although Ron DeSantis and Rick Scott hold electoral leads that are unlikely to be reversed, both races remain close enough to have triggered recounts. One does not need to believe that Snipes is engaged in widespread fraud to grasp that her rank incompetence is guaranteed to diminish faith in that process. Florida has a host of laws on the books that were designed to ensure that its citizens can track elections in as close to real time as possible. When those laws are ignored — and when the press is met with hostility, defiance, and indifference — it becomes more difficult to guarantee that nothing untoward is going on. During elections, “Trust us” is an extraordinary request, even from a figure of unimpeachable record. From Brenda Snipes, it is farcical.

It should be clear by now that Broward County has a systemic problem with its management of elections. (Guess which county was at the heart of the 2000 Florida recount?) 2018 is the 18th year in a row in which its elections commission has been headed up by an arrogant bungler (in the best case), and yet voters in the county keep reelecting those bunglers every two years. On present evidence, if Brenda Snipes is to be removed from her role, it will once again be because the governor cries “Enough.” When Ron DeSantis takes office in January, he should fire Snipes. And when he has done that, he should insist that Broward County take a good, hard look in the mirror, the better to ask how long it wishes to remain a den of blustery incompetence, or worse.

The Editors comprise the senior editorial staff of the National Review magazine and website.

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