Local Democratic officials in Broward and Palm Beach counties in Florida are recklessly violating state law in what may be an attempt to overturn the results of Tuesday’s midterm elections for governor and the U.S. Senate in the Sunshine State.
This looks like a repeat of the actions in Florida in the 2000 presidential election, when Democratic officials ignored state election laws – and were slapped down by the U.S. Supreme Court in a 7-2 decision.
Broward County Supervisor of Elections Brenda C. Snipes said Tuesday night that 634,000 votes had been cast in the county. But by Thursday night, Snipes was claiming 712,840 ballots had been cast.
The effect of these newly discovered votes that inexplicably appeared long after they should have been counted shrunk the leads of Republicans Gov. Rick Scott in the Senate race and former U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis in the gubernatorial contest.
Late Tuesday night Scott was up roughly 57,000 votes in his race against incumbent Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson. By Friday afternoon, Scott’s lead had declined dramatically to about 15,000 votes.
Late Tuesday night DeSantis led Democratic Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum in the gubernatorial race by 75,000 votes. But Friday afternoon DeSantis was ahead by less than half that – about 36,000 votes.
Broward County officials blatantly disregarded the Florida law requiring that all vote-by-mail and absentee ballots be accounted for within 30 minutes of the polls closing.
Though the county’s voting locations closed at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Snipes said Friday that she still didn’t know how many ballots remain to be processed. Nor could she say how many provisional, military or mismarked ballots she had in her possession.
Mysteriously, over 70,000 ballots have been counted since Tuesday night with apparently no one knowing how many more are still to come.
In addition, at least one ballot box for provisional votes was left unattended at a polling place – a school where it was discovered days after the election. The box was locked but not sealed, and could have been tampered with or stuffed. Could there be others?
Snipes then refused to allow Republican officials to inspect all ballots before they are submitted to the Canvassing Board. And she refused other requests for public records that should be available under Florida’s expansive “sunshine laws,” drawing a sharp rebuke from a judge late Friday afternoon.
In response to Republican lawsuits, Florida state Judge Carol-Lisa Phillips ruled Friday that “there has been a violation of the Florida constitution” and the state’s public records act by Broward County officials. The judge sided with Scott and ordered that Republicans should be granted “immediate access” to information they have requested about ballots Broward County.
There are also problems in next-door Palm Beach County.
On Wednesday morning, Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher stopped filing updates of the vote count with the Florida Department of State as required by law. The law mandates that she report every 45 minutes until all the election results are in.
Instead, Bucher dropped news of the 15,000 surprise ballots she’s counted since Tuesday night at any time she chose.
Besides telling the state to get lost, Bucher is also refusing to allow designated official political party representatives into the ballot counting area. She’s kept them isolated behind a glass wall where they can’t see and hear all that’s going on – yet another violation of Florida election law.
Even more troubling, Bucher has copied vote-by-mail ballots that she claims are damaged, but without allowing witnesses to observe the process as required by Florida law. In fact, she explicitly denied requests for witnesses to see her staff at work.
As election supervisor, Bucher also assumed the power to determine what constitutes a “valid vote.” Under Florida law, she doesn’t have that authority. She can only refer questionable ballots to the county’s bipartisan Canvassing Board.
This is not the first time these two Board of Election supervisors have shown contempt for their official responsibilities under Florida law, especially Snipes in Broward County.
In 2012 Snipes was criticized for absentee ballots that never arrived, balky scanners that didn’t work, slow reporting and mounds of ballots that showed up long after Election Day.
In 2014 Snipes demonstrated such incompetence that even fellow Democrats complained her office made it difficult for people to vote.
In 2016 Snipes allowed her employees to campaign on county time, violated state law by posting election results half an hour before the polls closed and was sued for leaving amendments off the ballots.
A judge also ruled that Snipes’ office violated state and federal laws by illegally destroying ballots. But the ruling regarding her action illegally obliterating evidence two years ago did not come down until this year.
And there’s more.
In 2017, accusations of ballot stuffing swirled around Snipes’ office during local elections. She even admitted that ineligible voters who were on the rolls and had voted.
This year Snipes has drawn more fire. It was revealed that her office broke Florida law earlier this election season by opening ballots in private without observers present (maybe a trick she learned from Bucher).
Then after people complained they didn’t get their absentee ballots, it turned out that Snipes failed to notify some voters that their right to cast an absentee ballot had expired. She blamed it on not having enough funds to mail notifications. Maybe that was because she wasted her budget by sending some voters ballots with duplicate pages.
This may all be rank incompetence, but perhaps these actions by two Democratic election officials are a smokescreen for something worse – a deliberate attempt to overturn the Florida election results.
Fortunately, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., blew the whistle and the Scott campaign, and the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the Republican National Committee have rushed to the scene of the possible crime and filed lawsuits to ensure that voters – not Democratic officials – pick the next governor and U.S. senator in Florida.
There may be a basis for the U.S. Justice Department to intervene and investigate this troubling situation in Broward and Palm Beach counties to answer the obvious question:
Are Democratic elections officials deliberately breaking the law and playing games to delay everything just long enough so they can create just the number of ballots needed to overturn the election results to install Gillum as governor and keep Nelson in the Senate?
That’s the kind of behavior you expect in Third World banana republics – not true great democracies, and certainly not the United States.
Let’s hope it’s not too late and that any election fraud in Broward and Palm Beach counties in Florida can be reversed.