■ Broward vote to­tal sent to state in­cluded two dozen re­jected bal­lots.

South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Sunday) - - Front Page - By Larry Barszewski lbarszewski@ SunSen­tinel.com, 954-356-4556 or Twit­ter @lbarszewski

Broward elec­tion of­fi­cials sent their vot­ing re­sults to the state on time Satur­day, but the to­tals in­cluded votes on some two dozen bal­lots re­jected by the county’s Can­vass­ing Board.

Elec­tions Su­per­vi­sor Brenda Snipes said her of­fice will be­gin a ma­chine re­count of three state and four lo­cal races at 7 a.m. Sun­day, after con­duct­ing a test of the vote-count­ing equip­ment. The county has un­til 3 p.m. Thurs­day to com­plete the re­count

Sun­day’s re­count is needed be­cause the lead­ing can­di­dates’ vote to­tals in each of the seven con­tested races are within a half-per­cent­age point of each other, which re­quire an au­to­matic re­count un­der state law.

The three state races — gover­nor, U.S. Se­na­tor and agri­cul­ture com­mis­sioner — will be done along with races for Plan­ta­tion mayor, Pom­pano Beach mayor, West Park City Com­mis­sion Seat 1 and Wal­nut Creek Com­mu­nity De­vel­op­ment Dis­trict Seat 3.

Re­jected bal­lots counted any­way

Repub­li­cans ob­jected to Snipes in­clud­ing re­jected bal­lots in the vote count, and U.S. Sen. Marco Ru­bio crit­i­cized her for it on Twit­ter, but Snipes said the re­jected bal­lots could not be re­moved with­out also re­ject­ing close to 180 valid bal­lots.

“It seems un­fair to me to dis­en­fran­chise 205 vot­ers at the ex­pense of a small num­ber,” Snipes said. “If that’s be­ing un­fair to any­one, I don’t think it’s a large enough num­ber to re­flect the dif­fer­ence be­tween who comes out of the re­counts as the vic­tor.”

This con­tro­versy over the Broward vote in­volved

205 pro­vi­sional bal­lots that were opened and pro­cessed be­fore the Can­vass­ing Board had a chance to re­view their el­i­gi­bil­ity. The Can­vass­ing Board on Fri­day evening re­jected about two dozen of those bal­lots, mostly be­cause board mem­bers de­cided the sig­na­tures didn’t match those on file.

These vot­ers had to cast pro­vi­sional bal­lots on Elec­tion Day be­cause of elec­tronic con­nec­tiv­ity is­sues with equip­ment that pre­vented poll work­ers from ver­i­fy­ing their sig­na­ture and voter in­for­ma­tion.

How­ever, be­cause the bal­lots can no longer be matched with their en­velopes, there’s no way to iso­late the ones the board re­jected. A Repub­li­can Party rep­re­sen­ta­tive said all the votes should be thrown out be­cause Snipes mis­han­dled them.

“I think the su­per­vi­sor of elec­tions spoiled them,” said Leonard Collins, an at­tor­ney for the Repub­li­can Party of Florida. “She spoiled them by open­ing them and sep­a­rat­ing the bal­lots from the en­velopes in vi­o­la­tion of Florida law.”

Collins said the ac­tion also vi­o­lated Broward Cir­cuit Judge Raag Singhal’s ear­lier rul­ing that he said re­quired Snipes to bring all pro­vi­sional bal­lots be­fore the Can­vass­ing Board be­fore open­ing.

Although counted, the

205 votes are be­ing kept on a sep­a­rate drive so that they can be re­moved if their in­clu­sion is suc­cess­fully chal­lenged.

Vote to­tals

The county’s up­dated vote re­sults were posted on­line just after noon Satur­day. In all, the county pro­cessed 41,602 votes Wed­nes­day through Satur­day after Elec­tion Day but said all the votes were re­ceived by 7 p.m. Tues­day, when the polls closed.

The county’s to­tal vote was 714,859 bal­lots cast, which rep­re­sents a 60.85 per­cent voter turnout.

The only thing left out of the up­dated count were about 25 bal­lot pages that the Can­vass­ing Board still needed to re­view be­fore they were pro­cessed, and mil­i­tary and over­seas votes that have to be post­marked by Nov. 6 but can be Broward County Su­per­vi­sor of Elec­tions Brenda Snipes and Judge Betsy Ben­son of the Broward County Can­vass­ing Board ex­am­ine bal­lots on Fri­day.

counted if they ar­rive by Fri­day.

The Broward Can­vass­ing Board has spent the last three days re­view­ing voter el­i­gi­bil­ity ques­tions and de­ter­min­ing voter in­tent on bal­lots that ma­chines have kicked out be­cause of marks made on pages out­side of the bub­ble cir­cles.

Snipes de­fended her vote-count­ing op­er­a­tions. She said her of­fice ad­hered

to state law re­quir­ing early vot­ing and mail-in bal­lots be posted within 30 min­utes of the polls clos­ing on Elec­tion Day. The re­quire­ment does not mean all of those votes have to be posted in that time, she said.

“You’re not ex­pected to have a com­plete re­sult for 700,000 peo­ple 30 min­utes after polls close,” Snipes said.

Snipes un­der fire

Snipes has come un­der heavy crit­i­cism for her han­dling of the elec­tion and the de­lay in get­ting out the vote re­sults.

“How can any­one trust more il­le­gal votes aren’[t] in their fi­nal count?” Ru­bio tweeted after the re­jected bal­lots were in­cluded.

Trump tweeted on Fri­day: “Law En­force­ment is look­ing into an­other big cor­rup­tion scan­dal hav­ing to do with Elec­tion Fraud in #Broward and Palm Beach. Florida voted for Rick Scott!”

Snipes’ at­tor­ney, Eu­gene Pet­tis, said ac­cu­sa­tions of fraud against Snipes are un­founded.

“It’s very im­por­tant that we lis­ten to facts and not fic­tion,” Pet­tis said. “To give a claim of fraud with­out any ev­i­dence, I think, is un­ac­cept­able, should be un­ac­cept­able in our elec­toral process.”

The state Divi­sion of Elec­tions has had two peo­ple mon­i­tor­ing ac­tiv­i­ties in the Broward elec­tions of­fice after Snipes had ad­mit­ted in a court pro­ceed­ing to pre­ma­turely de­stroy­ing bal­lots in the 2016 race be­tween U.S. Rep. Deb­bie Wasser­man-Schultz and Tim Canova.

“Depart­ment ob­servers con­tinue to mon­i­tor the ad­min­is­tra­tion of the elec­tion through the cer­ti­fi­ca­tion of re­sults. Our staff has seen no ev­i­dence of crim­i­nal ac­tiv­ity at this time,” said Depart­ment of State spokes­woman Sarah Rev­ell.

Some of the crit­i­cism of Snipes has been sus­pect. Im­ages of sealed “pro­vi­sional bal­lot box” left be­hind at polling sta­tions have been spread­ing through­out so­cial me­dia — Ru­bio him­self tweeted sev­eral — boxes that the elec­tions of­fice said only con­tain sup­plies used at the polling sites on Elec­tion Day. The boxes have the pro­vi­sional bal­lot mark­ings be­cause they are used dur­ing the day to hold the pro­vi­sional bal­lots, which are sent in a sep­a­rate bag to the elec­tion of­fice after the polls close.

“There are tweets go­ing out that trucks are be­ing loaded, down­load­ing new bal­lots. That’s sim­ply not true,” Pet­tis said. “They’re tak­ing equip­ment, chairs, desks — those type of things — off the premises. So we need to deal with re­al­ity. Don’t fol­low ev­ery­thing on so­cial me­dia.”

MIKE STOCKER/SOUTH FLORIDA SUN SEN­TINEL

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