I warned Gov. Scott about Broward’s elec­tion swamp

South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Sunday) - - Opinion - By Tim Canova

For two years, I have been warn­ing that the Broward Su­per­vi­sor of Elec­tions of­fice is a swamp of cor­rup­tion. I’ve been urg­ing Gov. Rick Scott to fire Su­per­vi­sor Brenda Snipes, clean out the of­fice and start crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tions. I’m sure Gov.

Scott now wishes he had heeded those warn­ings.

In 2016, I took a leave of ab­sence from Nova South­east­ern Univer­sity, where I am a tenured law pro­fes­sor, to run for Congress in a Demo­cratic pri­mary against Rep. Deb­bie Wasser­man Schultz. After I lost by about 13 per­cent­age points, I sought to in­spect the bal­lots to ver­ify the vote, as per­mit­ted un­der Florida’s pub­lic records law.

Un­for­tu­nately, Snipes stonewalled my re­quests for months, and I was forced to file a law­suit in mid-2017. Early this year, Snipes ad­mit­ted in a sworn video­taped de­po­si­tion that she had de­stroyed all the pa­per bal­lots. Sev­eral months later, the Florida Cir­cuit Court granted me sum­mary judg­ment, and found that Snipes had vi­o­lated nu­mer­ous state and fed­eral statutes, in­clud­ing some pun­ish­able as felonies with up to five years in prison.

Snipes has claimed there was no harm to the pub­lic be­cause we could in­spect the dig­i­tal scanned im­ages of the bal­lots. But there’s no way to in­spect the soft­ware of the elec­tronic vot­ing ma­chines that cre­ate those scanned bal­lot im­ages. The soft­ware is “pro­pri­etary” — the pri­vate prop­erty of the soft­ware ven­dors hired by the su­per­vi­sor.

Why would any­one run for of­fice — or even vote — while we have this aw­ful sys­tem of black-box vot­ing with elec­tronic vot­ing ma­chines that are in­her­ently sus­cep­ti­ble to hack­ing and soft­ware ma­nip­u­la­tion? I’ve come to be­lieve the only way to have fair elec­tions is to move to a sys­tem of 100 per­cent hand-marked pa­per bal­lots that are counted by hand, in pub­lic, by non­par­ti­san and trans-par­ti­san teams of cit­i­zens.

Both be­fore and after the court ruled against Snipes, I warned that if she were kept in of­fice, there would be more of­fi­cial mis­con­duct in elec­tions. None of our law en­force­ment agen­cies — the Florida Depart­ment of Law En­force­ment, the Florida At­tor­ney Gen­eral or the U.S. At­tor­ney for South Florida — were in­ter­ested in start­ing crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tions.

After Demo­cratic Party lead­ers failed to sup­port any in­ves­ti­ga­tion, I de­cided to leave the party and run again as a No Party Af­fil­i­a­tion (NPA) in­de­pen­dent can­di­date. I was very clear that I did not ex­pect a fair elec­tion and that Snipes would likely try to pun­ish me by rig­ging the elec­tion again. But I wanted to use the cam­paign to ex­pose as much of the cor­rup­tion in our elec­tions as pos­si­ble.

My re­cent cam­paign as an in­de­pen­dent caught fire in the fi­nal weeks. We saw an up­surge in sup­port when a Repub­li­can news out­let re­ported on a Repub­li­can poll that showed us in a dead heat with Wasser­man Schultz, and the Repub­li­can can­di­date far be­hind.

In early vot­ing, we saw an up­surge of new vot­ers, es­pe­cially young vot­ers who don’t nor­mally par­tic­i­pate in midterm elec­tions. Hun­dreds of vol­un­teers stepped up, can­vassers were knock­ing on 5,000 doors a day by the end, and we had vol­un­teers at al­most ev­ery Early Vot­ing site and Elec­tion Day site, where we wit­nessed a steady stream of vot­ers from across the po­lit­i­cal spec­trum break­ing our way.

On elec­tion night, Snipes’ of­fice re­ported that I had re­ceived less than 5 per­cent of the vote, a vote tally so low it’s ab­so­lutely lu­di­crous. Some­how, we’re sup­posed to be­lieve that I got half the num­ber of votes in a gen­eral elec­tion than I re­ceived in a closed pri­mary, and at a time when my name recog­ni­tion was so much higher than two years ago.

To­day, ev­ery­one is acutely aware of the prob­lems in Snipes’ of­fice. Both par­ties in Florida are re­spon­si­ble for this elec­tion night­mare. Nei­ther was will­ing to stand up for the rule of law. Democrats took no heed when Snipes was pho­tographed cam­paign­ing with Wasser­man Schultz barely a week be­fore the re­cent elec­tion. They should not be sur­prised that Repub­li­cans now sus­pect a rigged elec­tion.

Un­for­tu­nately, no­body seems to care about elec­tion rig­ging un­til it hap­pens to them. But this prob­lem is big­ger than any can­di­date. It should con­cern all of us as Amer­i­cans.

Sadly, I no longer trust any elec­tion re­sult re­ported in Broward County. There needs to be an in­ves­ti­ga­tion of ev­ery elec­tion that’s taken place here. I call on Gov. Scott to do what he should have done many months ago: im­me­di­ately fire Brenda Snipes and re­place her with some­one with in­tegrity who is more in­ter­ested in fair elec­tions than in fa­vor­ing par­tic­u­lar can­di­dates or par­ties.

Tim Canova is a pro­fes­sor of law and pub­lic fi­nance at Nova South­east­ern Univer­sity in Davie/Ft. Laud­erdale.

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