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Elections

Woman Overseeing Broward Vote Count Illegally Destroyed Ballots in Previous Race

(Al Drago/REUTERS)

Brenda Snipes, the Broward County Board of Elections Supervisor previously convicted for illegally destroying ballots, is once again under scrutiny for her questionable handling of Tuesday’s elections.

Snipes has so far refused to disclose the number of Broward County ballots that have yet to be counted more than 40 hours after the polls closed, in possible violation of Florida law, which requires timely reporting of vote counts.

Senator Marco Rubio of Florida castigated Snipes Thursday for her recent lack of transparency and cited her past indiscretions in questioning her credibility.

The Broward County vote count is hugely consequential as Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson’s campaign is holding out hope that it could help erase the existing 22,000 vote gap separating him from former Republican governor Rick Scott.

A recount in both the Florida Senate and gubernatorial races appears likely, as state law mandates that one be conducted if the final margin in a contest is slimmer than 0.5 percentage points, which it is in both cases.

Confronted by reporters at her office Thursday, Snipes refused to provide even a rough estimate of how many ballots were yet to be counted and tried to explain the delay in final reporting by citing the high number of absentee ballots submitted.

A local ABC affiliate recounted its reporter’s confrontation with Snipes:

“Could I please get a moment to go into the room and find out?” Snipes asked the group huddled around her. “OK, when I come back I’ll let you know.”

“But, Dr. Snipes, it is now Thursday,” Weinsier said. “We are still counting ballots in Broward County.”

“We’re counting five pages or six pages for each of the people who voted,” Snipes said.

“But other counties have been able to do it,” Weinsier said.

“But other counties didn’t have 600,000 votes out there,” Snipes shot back.

“Well, Miami-Dade did,” Weinsier said.

“Well, have you been inside my — never mind, let me go check. I’ll check,” Snipes said.

“But it’s a serious issue. It always seems like…” Weinsier said before Snipes interrupted him.

“It’s a serious issue with me,” she told him. “I’ve been doing this now since Oct. 22.”

“But if it’s a serious issue with you…” Weinsier said, only to be interrupted again.

“We ran 22 sites, we ran 14 days, we ran 12 hours, we had a big vote by mail (during early voting), so don’t try to turn it around to make it seem like I’m making comedy out of this,” Snipes replied.

A judge ruled in 2016 that Snipes violated federal election law by prematurely destroying ballots from a congressional race that were relevant to an outstanding lawsuit against her office. As a result, the Florida Department of State said elections experts would be dispatched to monitor Snipes’s office in future elections to “ensure that all laws are followed.”

Snipes was once again chastised by the court in February of this year after the state’s Republican party sued her for opening mail-in ballots before the Board of Elections had the opportunity to examine the ballots and determine their authenticity.

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