Official at center of Florida vote controversy says she may leave job after recount

Jon Ward
Senior Political Correspondent

LAUDERHILL, Fla. – The controversial director of elections in Broward County said Tuesday that her division will finish a machine recount by the state deadline of Thursday afternoon, adding that she might retire after this election. She implied that criticism of her performance in the job might be partly motivated by racism.

“We will complete the recount … I think we’re on a good schedule and we will finish before the deadline on Thursday,” Brenda Snipes told reporters in the media room, which is separated by a pane of glass from the room where elections workers are retabulating the results of the Florida election that took place a week ago.

Races for governor, U.S. senator and agricultural commissioner are all so close that state law mandates a machine recount. If any of those races is within a margin of 0.25 percent after the machine recount, then the state will move to a hand recount of the ballots.

Broward County Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes on Monday. (Photo: Carlo Allegri/Reuters)

Broward County is recounting almost 715,000 ballots, and spent the weekend and into Monday separating the pages of the ballots to speed the process. An elections official told reporters that Broward has counted 199,000 out of 299,000 early votes so far, and then will proceed to regular votes.

Snipes has been found at fault in a number of disputes over her handling of elections over the past few years, exasperating both Republicans and Democrats in the state. Snipes, a Democrat, was appointed by then-Gov. Jeb Bush in 2003, after her predecessor was ousted over the mishandling of the 2000 presidential election. She has been reelected to her post four times since then.

On Monday Bush became the latest public official to criticize her, saying she “should be removed from her office following the recounts.”

“There is no question that Broward County Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes failed to comply with Florida law on multiple counts, undermining Floridians’ confidence in our electoral process,” Bush tweeted.

Protesters call for the resignation of Broward Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes on Sunday in Lauderhill, where the Florida recount began. (Photo: Joe Cavaretta/Sun Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)

Snipes raised the issue of race in her comments, saying that when Bush appointed her, that was after “the removal of another black woman in this office.”

“I don’t know why we get a bigger spotlight than some,” Snipes said. “I have worked for 15 years tirelessly for the voters of Broward County, and I will continue to do this until my time is up.”

Snipes also said that it is “sort of hard to rule out race,” but added, “I won’t say, ‘Oh, I’m black woman and that’s why.’ I’m not saying that.”

But it’s not just Republicans who are mad at Snipes. Democrats are exasperated with what many see as a substandard operation in a Democratic stronghold, which they believe has hurt them politically. Local media have reported on numerous screwups in ballot design, record-keeping and tallying of results, although there has been no evidence of intentional tampering. Rumors of Snipes’s departure or removal have been flying since before this election.

“I suspect she won’t be here for long … whether she is suspended from office, she leaves office early or she’s voted out,” state Rep. Jared Moskowitz, a Democrat, told Politico.

Snipes herself indicated she might leave her office on her own after the election. “It is time to move on, to let someone else … I think I have served the purpose that I came her for, which was to provide a credible election,” she said. “I haven’t finalized that. I’ll just check with my family — they’ll tell me what I’m doing.”

During this recount, Snipes was found to have submitted 22 rejected ballots in a batch of 205, giving critics ammunition.

But multiple state agencies have investigated this election and found no evidence of voter fraud or other illegal activities.

An employee at the Broward County elections office prepares to sort ballots on Monday. (Photo: Wilfredo Lee/AP)

That has not stopped President Trump, Republican Gov. Rick Scott — who is the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate and leads Democratic incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson by 0.12 percent — and other Republicans from claiming that fraud is taking place.

Scott claimed Sunday on Fox News, without evidence, that Nelson was “trying to commit fraud to steal this election.”

Last Friday, Trump said Broward County’s elections office has “had a horrible history, and if you look at the person, in this case a woman involved, she has had a horrible history.”

Trump charged, falsely, that “all of the sudden they’re finding votes out of nowhere.” The adjustments to the preliminary count announced on election night reflect votes being newly counted, not discovered.

Snipes, asked about that comment, said Tuesday, “I don’t have a treasure trove to go out digging on the beach somewhere to find any votes.”


Read more from Yahoo News: