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Elections

Scott Prevails, Judge Orders Broward Election Official to Immediately Release Records

Florida Governor Rick Scott speaks at a campaign rally with President Trump in Estero, Fla., October 31, 2018. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

A Florida judge has ordered Broward County Board of Elections supervisor Brenda Snipes to turn over all records requested by Republican Senate candidate Rick Scott no later than 7 p.m. Friday.

Scott filed suit against Broward County on Thursday, demanding that Snipes comply with public-records law by revealing the number of mail-in absentee ballots her office has received, as well as how many of those have been counted thus far.

Snipes, who has a history of running afoul of election law, has refused to disclose the number of mail-in absentee ballots her office has received, choosing instead to gradually report vote counts over the three days since the election. In that time, Scott’s initial lead over Democratic incumbent senator Bill Nelson has narrowed from more than 50,000 votes to just over 15,000.

Snipes’s attorneys told the judge during Friday’s emergency court hearing that their client would gladly release all records once the counting process concluded, and argued that forcing her to do so immediately would interfere with her ability to finalize the count in a timely manner.

Snipes’s lack of transparency regarding the vote count has led a number of prominent Republicans, including Senator Marco Rubio of Florida and President Trump, to suggest that Democrats are resorting to fraud to overturn Scott’s victory.

Critics of the Broward vote-count operation have cited Snipes’s record of engaging in dubious, and occasionally illegal, conduct at her job. A judge ruled in 2016 that Snipes violated Florida election law by prematurely destroying mail-in ballots that would have otherwise been examined as part of a lawsuit against her office. Snipes was again found guilty of violating election law in February, when a Florida judge found that she prematurely opened a number of mail-in absentee ballots.

Scott indicated Thursday that he was calling for an investigation into the Broward County Board of Elections, but the Florida Department of Law Enforcement told National Review on Friday that the governor has not formally ordered an investigation.

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