While Broward Supervisor of Elections employees counted ballots after this past November's vote, an angry crowd gathered outside the door.
The riled Republican protesters carried signs accusing those inside the Lauderhill office of stealing the election. They waved Trump flags and chanted against socialism and for draining the swamp. Most of the venom was aimed at the supervisor of elections, Brenda Snipes, whom they openly accused of fraud.
"Lock her up!" they chanted, echoing the infamous chorus of the 2016 Republican National Convention.
The protesters were following the lead of President Donald Trump, who had accused the Broward elections office of "dishonesty" on television and followed up with a signature Trump tweet storm in which he claimed he was sending lawyers to "expose" the fraud and that Snipes was trying to steal the election. Trump then declared "law enforcement is looking into another big corruption scandal having to do with election fraud" in Broward. There was no law enforcement investigation at the time of his tweet. Trump suggested Snipes herself had voted 300 times. He even alleged, wildly, that Snipes would have done a "number" and "falsified" a victory for Hillary Clinton over him in 2016 if the race had been close enough.
"Bad things have gone on in Broward County," he said during an impromptu press conference. "What's going on in Florida is a disgrace."
Trying to STEAL two big elections in Florida! We are watching closely!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 10, 2018
Well, now the actual facts are in and they appear to put the lie to Trump's very serious allegations against Snipes, as well as to similar slanderous accusations made by Sen. Rick Scott. New Broward elections chief Peter Antonacci, a Republican appointed by Scott, quietly issued his memo last week on “all that happened” during the election, comprehensively titling it “What Went Wrong.” (Full text can be found below.)
And, lo and behold, the memo does not include the words “fraud” or “steal." Antonacci found no evidence of ballot tampering, no evidence of corruption, in
In describing the alleged problems, Antonacci reveals that Broward election employees, even as Trump was ginning up a crisis on Twitter and his followers raged outside their doors, were simply doing their duty and faithfully counting the votes.
“I have observed good things in the office as well,” Antonacci wrote. “Most notable is the dedication and work ethic of the majority of the SOE team.”
Sen. Scott, whose own votes were being counted in his razor-thin Senate race with Bill Nelson at the time, was just as bad as Trump in stirring up the chaos. During a nighttime press conference, a clearly agitated Scott accused Snipes of trying to "steal" the election and made a flurry of allegations, including criminal misconduct, against Snipes without evidence.
"Every Floridian should be concerned there may be rampant fraud happening in Palm Beach and Broward Counties," said Scott, who was then governor of the state. "I will not sit idly by while unethical liberals try to steal this election from the great people of Florida. Every day since the election the left-wing activists in Broward County have been coming up with more and more ballots out of nowhere. Everybody knows what is going on."
Here Scott, with his claim that "unethical liberals" were trying to "steal" the election, was clearly riling up his conservative backers, and the end result, after all the irresponsible rhetoric, was the mad days-long circus outside the elections office. It included a ranting U.S. congressman, Matt Gaetz, screaming that the elections office was a "safety hazard" and interrupting an elections official as she shared information with the media.
So could it be that Trump and Scott outright lied and slandered Snipes (and Broward County itself) in an attempt to mislead the public, create confusion and anger, and cloud the counting process at a time it didn’t seem to favor the Republican candidates?
In the 2016 Election I was winning by so much in Florida that Broward County, which was very late with vote tabulation and probably getting ready to do a “number,” couldn’t do it because not enough people live in Broward for them to falsify a victory!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 9, 2018
As shocking as that might seem (sarcasm intended), all signs point in that direction — and Antonacci’s comprehensive memo all but confirms it. The only thing left to consider is the conclusion of an FDLE investigation that was urged by Scott and Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi during the politically charged recount. But Antonacci has had a full six weeks in charge to peer into every nook and cranny in the office. He apparently found no wrongdoing, which makes it seem unlikely the president or junior Florida senator's claims will be substantiated.
Snipes announced her resignation after the recount, but that didn't stop Scott from removing her from office anyway. Snipes sued and U.S. District Court Judge Mark Walker ruled in her favor, finding that Scott "flagrantly disregarded" her constitutional rights, something Walker
“Rather than accept the resignation quietly and avoid trampling on Snipes’ due process rights, Scott suspended Snipes and vilified her without giving her a meaningful opportunity to be heard," Walker wrote.
New Gov. Ron DeSantis then allowed Snipes to resign with, as she put it, her name and dignity restored.
Miami New Times reached out to the offices of both the president and the senator for
So what really went wrong in the 2018 midterms? In his memo, Antonacci describes an office that failed to see “warning signs of high voter enthusiasm” for the election and found itself with “budget shortfalls, insufficient staffing, and
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Antonacci says 15 percent of the 72 office staff positions were vacant and that some employees had not been cross-trained for counting tasks, which led to “chaos” and a “fundamental lack of trained employees available to achieve the job at hand.”
He also noted the office was forced to rent four high-speed vote tabulators after the election to handle the recount. The budget shortfall for the election was more than $1 million, which the county has already agreed to cover. Antonacci indicates what he believes is the answer to the problem: more cash from the taxpayers.
“The Supervisor of Elections Office must budget realistically for the 2020 elections,” he wrote. “To that end, we are focusing much of our energies on budget preparation and analysis for the critical 2020 elections.”