Brenda C. Snipes, the elections supervisor of Broward County, Fla., whose department has endured blistering criticism for mistakes during the recount in three statewide races in November, has withdrawn her plans to step down after the governor ...
Brenda C. Snipes, the elections supervisor in Broward County, Fla., rescinded her previously announced resignation after Gov. Rick Scott suspended her on Friday.CreditCreditMike Stocker/South Florida Sun-Sentinel, via Associated Press
Dec. 3, 2018
Brenda C. Snipes, the elections supervisor of Broward County, Fla., whose department has endured blistering criticism for mistakes during the recount in three statewide races in November, has withdrawn her plans to step down after the governor suspended her on Friday.
The reversal over the weekend by Dr. Snipes, an elected Democrat, came hours after Gov. Rick Scott, the Republican who is now the state’s senator-elect, signed an executive order that stripped her of her position, placed her on leave without pay and appointed one of his former political aides as her replacement. It was among a series of salvos between the public figures in recent days, as Mr. Scott declared that Dr. Snipes must be removed because she had “demonstrated malfeasance, incompetence and neglect of duty.”
The governor cited a litany of mistakes by her department in recent elections, including its failure to meet the state’s deadline to submit results of a machine recount of ballots cast in the midterm elections in November. One of the races subjected to a recount included Mr. Scott, who narrowly defeated Senator Bill Nelson, the Democratic incumbent.
“After a series of inexcusable actions, it’s clear that there needs to be an immediate change in Broward County,” Mr. Scott said on Friday evening in a statement, “and taxpayers should no longer be burdened by paying a salary for a Supervisor of Elections who has already announced resignation.”
At a news conference on Saturday, a lawyer for Dr. Snipes objected to Mr. Scott’s characterization of her performance, accusing him of holding her to an unfair standard, as well as his suggestion that there had been misconduct and wrongdoing.
“We believe these actions are malicious,” the lawyer, Burnadette Norris-Weeks, said on Saturday, and “are done for the purposes of embarrassing Dr. Snipes — embarrassing her and tarnishing her record.”
Ms. Norris-Weeks said that Dr. Snipes would no longer resign on Jan. 4, as she had stated in a Nov. 18 letter of resignation to the state government in Tallahassee. Her term ends in November 2020.
It was not immediately clear what it meant for Dr. Snipes, who did not respond to an email seeking comment on Monday and could not be reached at her Broward County office on Monday morning. She can appeal the suspension before the state’s Republican-held Senate, which would have three months to hold a hearing. Ms. Norris-Weeks could not be reached for comment.
Mr. Scott named Peter Antonacci, a Republican who previously served as the governor’s general counsel, as her replacement. In the statement, Mr. Scott said Mr. Antonacci would not run for office to keep the position.
A spokesman for the governor’s office said it stood by Mr. Scott’s comments and executive order from Friday. Representatives from Mr. Scott’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment. Mr. Antonacci said he started the new job early on Monday and was in the beginning stages of reviewing the department and its employees.
The Broward County elections office, particularly its top official, was heavily scrutinized and the subject of withering attacks for its performance on Election Day in November and in the recount that followed.
Critics on the left complained about what appeared to be a poorly designed ballot in the heavily Democratic county that may have contributed to Mr. Nelson’s loss. Republicans, including President Trump, accused Dr. Snipes of sloppy work and pounced on her failures, including the department’s mistake of mixing invalid provisional ballots with valid ones.
Those complaints aside, Dr. Snipes came under universal criticism in mid-November when Broward County submitted its machine recount results to the state two minutes late even though it had completed the count hours before. Her office faulted an unfamiliarity with the state’s website.
After the mistakes last month, Dr. Snipes, who was appointed in 2002 by Gov. Jeb Bush, a Republican, acknowledged that Broward County fell short. “I have taken responsibility for every act in this office, good, bad or indifferent,” she said at the time.
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