Broward County, Florida, is once again at the center of another voting scandal, the fourth of such this voting season. On November 2, 2016, the Florida Republican Party sent a warning letter to the Broward County Supervisor of Elections Dr. Brenda Snipes informing her that her county was allegedly in violation of ballot handling regulations. The party indicated that if they did not respond to the letter by 4:00 p.m. EST, the Florida Republican Party would prepare to take the issue to court.
Fox News field producer Heather Lacy tweeted that the Florida GOP, signed by chairman Blaise Ingoglia, had issued a letter of noncompliance to the Broward County Election Officer for “violations” to ballot counting procedure.
— Heather Lacy (@Heather_Lacy1) November 2, 2016
The letter indicated that the Florida GOP had reason to believe that Broward County was opening mail-in ballots before the state’s canvassing board had a chance to verify the ballots. The letter indicates that, per state law, the Election Board and its employees cannot open mail-in ballots until the canvassing process is complete. This ensures that the ballots are not only validated but that it also prevents the ability of voters to exercise their right to have mail-in ballots legally protected.
“Florida law requires each supervisor of elections to keep every vote-by-mail ballot ‘unopened in his or her office until the country canvassing board canvasses the vote.'”
The letter points out the section of Florida law requiring that the canvassing board canvass the ballots before opening and notes that without this process, voters will be unable to “exercise their rights to have allegedly deficient ballots reviewed by the canvassing board by excluding the public from the process by which the vote-by-mail ballots are reviewed.”
“Moreover, because a challenge based on a defect in the voter’s certificate ‘may not be accepted afer the ballot has been removed from the mailing envelope’, your decision to open vote-by-mail ballots prior to canvassing may have permenetly deprived coters of their legal right to lodge a protest against illegal ballots.”
In total, the Florida GOP is claiming that “tens of thousands” of ballots have been prematurely opened in Broward County by the election board.
In response to the claims, Snipes notes that they are preparing an official written response but that they “haven’t done anything different than we’ve done in the past” and that it is “standard procedure.”
— Heather Lacy (@Heather_Lacy1) November 2, 2016
Though Snipes is claiming that the issue is normal standard practice, it isn’t the first issue the Election Board has had this election cycle. In fact, it is the fourth major issue being reported in the county. Another lawsuit is being threatened by voters after several voters received ballots that did not contain the Amendment 2 question regarding medical marijuana.
Fox 13 reports that at least five voters in Broward County, Florida, say that they received early ballots both mail-in and in-person that were missing the Amendment 2 question. The ballots were completely void of the question which resulted in each voting receiving a new ballot.
“Two voters who filed the initial lawsuit against Broward County Supervisor of Elections Dr. Brenda C. Snipes claimed their mail-in or absentee ballots were missing the amendment issue which addresses legalizing medical marijuana in Florida.”
However, the problem didn’t end with those two voters. Three others report their ballot was missing the marijuana question with two reporting the issue to voting staff while voting in-person. The individuals were reportedly given new ballots that contained Amendment 2 but now those supporting the Amendment want answers as to how many people may have received incorrect ballots.
Medical marijuana amendment missing from mail-in ballots in Broward County, Florida!https://t.co/nxZusfPSCF
— Makada???????? (@_Makada_) October 28, 2016
According to the Sun Sentinel, Broward County also faced scrutiny when it posted primary results too early. Florida statute says that no election results “shall be released until after the closing of the polls in that county on Election Day.” Any elections supervisor or employee who releases the results “commits a felony of the third degree.” Therefore, when Broward County prematurely released election results before voting was closed, the Election Board immediately began working to clean up the issue. Ultimately, Snipes reported that the premature release was the result of a staff member’s inadvertent actions.
“A staff member of ours inadvertently created a link that was a preview of the election results that were not intended to be public.”
Finally, the Broward County Election Board also has been called out for errors in Creole translated ballots. Local 10 news reports that Broward County also sent out incorrectly translated ballots to voters who speak Creole. On the ballots, the Creole word for “yes” was incorrectly translated to the word for “no” on a proposal to raise the sales tax a penny to 7 percent to pay for improvements in transportation and infrastructure. In response to the translation issue, Broward County has posted notices about the issue at all polling places and sent with all mail-in ballots.
What do you think about the stream of issues with the Broward County, Florida, Election Board? Do you think the GOP should pursue the voter fraud lawsuit or was it an honest mistake?
[Featured Image by Marianne Armshaw/AP Images]