Broward County Elections Supervisor Brenda Snipes resigned Monday, almost two weeks after the Nov. 6 midterm elections that saw Florida Republicans eke out close victories in two races decided by recounts.
Snipes quickly became the face of the elections in Florida, where Republicans accused her of incompetence at best and outright fraud at worst, and Democrats lamented how the ballots her office designed may have led thousands to entirely bypass voting in the Senate race.
Almost immediately after Election Day, Rick Scott gave a short speech outside his official residence, asking for a law enforcement investigation into how Broward County was conducting its voting and tabulation. After both a machine recount and then a hand recount, Scott would win the statewide Senate election by just more than 10,000 votes.
Before the recounts, it was not exactly clear how many votes the heavily Democratic Broward County had left to tabulate after Election Day, leading many Republicans to challenge a margin that seemed to only be narrowing. When ordered to do a machine recount in the Senate and governor’s races, Broward County was two minutes late in reporting, which resulted in the initial tally being used instead.
There was also the problem of Snipes’ “mixing” of about 20 provisional ballots that ultimately did not meet the standards for being counted with about 200 provisional ballots that did. Once they were mixed, Broward election officials could no longer distinguish between them and decided to count all of them.
Snipes also lost a lawsuit brought by Scott that accused her of violating the state’s open records laws after the election and forced her to update the campaigns with detailed vote data before the official count was completed.
But perhaps the biggest blunder in Broward actually harmed the Democrats. Contrary to best practices for ballot design, the ballot there listed the Senate race underneath the voting instructions in the far left-hand column, which may have caused many voters to miss it entirely.
About 26,000 more people in Broward voted in the governor’s race than in the Senate race, and Broward had more ballots without a selection in the Senate race than any other Florida county, according to the Orlando Sentinel. Because Nelson had almost 40 percent more votes than his opponent in Broward, he probably missed out on thousands more votes.
The 75-year-old Snipes was appointed to the job in 2003 by Republican Gov. Jeb Bush to fill out the term of the previous supervisor, who he had suspended. She subsequently won four elections. She was previously an education official in Broward County.
“People don’t have confidence in her anymore,” the chairwoman of the Broward County Democratic Party told the New York Times. “And if that includes even those of us who have tried to be helpful over the last couple of years as best we can, that in and of itself makes it an untenable situation going into a presidential election.”