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Scott suspends Broward's controversial election chief before she can quit early

December 01,2018 02:17

MIAMI — Before she could retire early in January, Gov. Rick Scott decided Friday to suspend Brenda Snipes, Broward County's troubled election supervisor, from office following a series of voting and ballot controversies that culminated in the 2018 ...


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MIAMI — Before she could retire early in January, Gov. Rick Scott decided Friday to suspend Brenda Snipes, Broward County’s troubled election supervisor, from office following a series of voting and ballot controversies that culminated in the 2018 midterms when the Republican had to sue her to get public information.
“Every eligible voter in Florida deserves their vote to be counted and should have confidence in Florida’s elections process,” Scott said in a written statement to POLITICO. “After a series of inexcusable actions, it’s clear that there needs to be an immediate change in Broward County and taxpayers should no longer be burdened by paying a salary for a Supervisor of Elections who has already announced resignation.”
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Snipes, an elected official whose term ends after the 2020 elections, will be replaced by Scott’s longtime fixer, attorney Pete Antonacci, Scott’s former general counsel who does not plan to run for the Broward elections position and who has been appointed by Scott to fill three other posts, including his current job as president and CEO of Enterprise Florida.
Snipes did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.
Scott could have let Snipes just leave office Jan. 4 — the date she gave as her original early retirement — but the governor felt she needed to be punished for running such a bad shop for so long, according to a person familiar with his thinking.
“It was a long time coming,” said a source familiar with Scott’s thinking and decision. “Snipes had it coming to her.”
Even Snipes’ announcement of her hoped-for retirement date spoke to her hostile relationship with Scott: Jan. 4. That’s one day after Scott is supposed to leave his current office to become Florida’s next U.S. senator.
Snipes began discussing an early retirement date in earnest after POLITICO first reported she was likely to be suspended from office for incompetence. Democrats said they couldn’t support Snipes any more, either. And some suspect that the flawed ballot she designed in Broward County may have led to so many undervotes that it helped cost Scott’s Democratic opponent, Sen. Bill Nelson, the election.
Over the years, her office has been a hotbed for elections controversies, from appearing to accept unlawful votes, destroying ballots, busting deadlines and even violating the Sunshine Law concerning open records. The latter controversy brought Snipes into direct conflict with Scott.
After Election Day, Snipes’ office failed to regularly update the state’s system with ballot totals as required by law. Instead, Broward began uploading tens of thousands of votes — sometimes in the middle of the night — leading Scott to hold an extraordinary press conference Nov. 8 and charge, without evidence, that “rampant fraud” could be taking place in the Democratic-heavy counties of Broward and Palm Beach.
“The Broward Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes has a history of acting in bad faith,” Scott said at the time.
Scott’s decision to suspend Snipes so late in his term could be the last executive order he issues as governor.
Adding to the outrage for critics of Snipes: she’s leaving office with $130,000 in yearly retirement.
Scott’s team and insiders from Broward County to Tallahassee believe that Snipes‘ replacement, Antonacci, will probably “clean house,” said the source familiar with Scott’s thinking. Antonacci was appointed by Scott to fill vacancies at the Palm Beach County state attorney’s office, Scott’s general counsel’s office, the South Florida Water Management District’s executive director position and Enterprise Florida.
“I know that Pete will be solely focused on running free and fair elections, and will not be running for election and will bring order and integrity back to this office,” Scott said in his statement.
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