In­side Ru­bio lays blame on Broward County Su­per­vi­sor of Elec­tions Brenda Snipes for elec­tion prob­lems.

Sun Sentinel Palm Beach Edition - - FRONT PAGE - By An­thony Man Staff writer Larry Barszewski con­trib­uted to this re­port. aman@sunsen­tinel.com, 954-356-4550 or Twit­ter @broward­pol­i­tics

par­ti­sans lined up for war over Florida’s elec­tion re­sults, vote count­ing and loom­ing re­counts, U.S. Sen. Marco Ru­bio aimed fire Thurs­day at Broward County Elec­tions Su­per­vi­sor Brenda Snipes.

Ru­bio ex­co­ri­ated the elec­tions su­per­vi­sor in se­ries of mes­sages he posted on Twit­ter.

“A U.S. Se­nate seat & a statewide cabi­net of­fi­cer are now po­ten­tially in the hands of an elec­tions su­per­vi­sor with a his­tory of in­com­pe­tence & of bla­tant vi­o­la­tions of state & fed­eral laws,” Ru­bio thun­dered in one of his af­ter­noon commentaries.

He com­plained that vote count­ing in Florida’s other 66 coun­ties was much far­ther along than in Broward.

“#BayCounty was hit by a Cat 4 Hur­ri­cane just 4 weeks ago, yet man­aged to count votes & sub­mit timely re­sults. Yet over 41 hours af­ter polls closed #Broward elec­tions of­fice is still count­ing votes?” Ru­bio said.

Bay County re­ported 63,768 votes cast. Broward had 707,223 cast late Thurs­day af­ter­noon as count­ing con­tin­ued.

The se­na­tor went on to ar­gue that the slow pace was more than “an­noy­ing in­com­pe­tence.” In­stead, he warned it is an in­di­ca­tion of the po­ten­tial for mis­chief, rather than slow count­ing. Ru­bio said Demo­cratic lawyers were plan­ning to “steal” the Se­nate elec­tion and one of the Florida Cabi­net races. Pre­sum­ably that refers to the agri­cul­ture com­mis­sioner con­test be­tween Matt Cald­well and Nikki Fried. The two can­di­dates were sep­a­rated Thurs­day evening by 470 votes — out of more than 8 mil­lion cast.

U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, a Demo­crat who rep­re­sents parts of Broward and Palm Beach coun­ties, vis­ited the Broward elec­tions of­fice on Thurs­day, and later said on Twit­ter that Ru­bio “should not wildly spec­u­late & make reck­less charges ques­tion­ing the le­git­i­macy of elec­tions. In­stead let’s count ev­ery sin­gle vote, shall we? Marco, it doesn’t even take six words, let alone six tweets to say, ‘EV­ERY. VOTE. SHOULD. BE. COUNTED.’”

For­mer U.S. Rep. Gwen Gra­ham ridiculed Ru­bio’s as­ser­tions. “Ut­ter Trumpian BS, Se­na­tor. In­stead of spew­ing false con­spir­acy the­o­ries, let our democ­racy work. Just, chill,” she wrote on Twit­ter. Gra­ham was an un­suc­cess­ful can­di­date for the Demo­cratic gu­ber­na­to­rial nom­i­na­tion.

Ru­bio seized on a com­ment from Snipes that she didn’t know how many bal­lots re­mained to be counted, and he raised sus­pi­cions that some­thing was wrong be­cause her of­fice “isn’t re­port­ing hourly or reg­u­larly, but rather re­leas­ing thou­sands of ad­di­tional votes, of­ten in the overnight hours, that are chip­ping away at GOP leads.”

Count­ing votes in Broward — whether it’s done on elec­tion night or af­ter — is vir­tu­ally guaranAs teed to pro­duce more Demo­cratic than Repub­li­can bal­lots and re­duce the GOP’s ad­van­tage statewide. That hap­pens in ev­ery elec­tion, re­gard­less of tim­ing.

Broward is the big­gest Demo­cratic county in the state. More than 50 per­cent of the county’s reg­is­tered vot­ers are Democrats. Repub­li­cans make up 21 per­cent of the county’s reg­is­tered vot­ers — in third place be­hind no party af­fil­i­a­tion vot­ers, who make up 28 per­cent.

Be­cause of the de­lay, Ru­bio wrote, Demo­cratic lawyers “are de­scend­ing on #Florida. They have been very clear they aren’t here to make sure ev­ery vote is counted. They are here to change the re­sults of elec­tion; & Broward is where they plan to do it.”

Repub­li­cans have their own le­gal forces in place as well. Among those at the Broward Elec­tions Of­fice on Thurs­day was the high pro­file Fort Laud­erdale lawyer Bill Scherer. He was one of the lawyers in­volved in the 2000 elec­tion re­count in the Ge­orge W. Bush-Al Gore pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

Snipes was ap­pointed elec­tions su­per­vi­sor in 2003 by then-Gov. Jeb Bush. Scherer said he’s “been hav­ing to file law­suits against Brenda Snipes ever since for vot­ing ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties in Broward County . ... Brenda Snipes and her elec­tion ap­pa­ra­tus causes ev­ery­body to have doubts about where these votes are, how many are left.”

Cyn­thia Busch, chair­woman of the Broward Demo­cratic Party, said Thurs­day peo­ple are frus­trated by the time the vote count­ing is tak­ing but urged calm.

“Peo­ple are like, ‘How come Dr. Snipes isn’t done?’ ” Busch said, “Ev­ery­one needs to be pa­tient.”

The lengthy bal­lots need to be scanned into tab­u­la­tion equip­ment, and that takes time. “You can only process them so quickly. They have to go through a ma­chine. It’s 10 pages. They’ll get them done,” Busch said.

Ru­bio said Snipes’s of­fice “has a his­tory of vi­o­lat­ing the law.” He at­tached a news ar­ti­cle about a court rul­ing against Snipes.

While a law­suit seek­ing ac­cess to bal­lots from a 2016 con­gres­sional pri­mary was pend­ing, Snipes’ of­fice pre­ma­turely de­stroyed the bal­lots.

She called it a mis­take. A cir­cuit court judge ruled in May that her of­fice broke fed­eral and state law by de­stroy­ing the bal­lots too soon af­ter the Au­gust 2016 pri­mary, while the law­suit was pend­ing.

She OK’d the bal­lot de­struc­tion a year af­ter the pri­mary. The law re­quires preser­va­tion of the bal­lots for 22 months.

Snipes has had many crit­ics over the years. In 2016, for ex­am­ple, she was sued be­cause some mail bal­lots did not in­clude a ques­tion about a state con­sti­tu­tional amend­ment on al­low­ing med­i­cal mar­i­juana.

Later in 2016, at the height of the pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, Roger Stone, the dirty trick­ster and some­times con­fi­dante of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump spread the word that Snipes se­cretly met with Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee Hil­lary Clin­ton. Stone promised pic­tures would back up his as­ser­tion, but he never pro­duced the proof he promised. Af­ter the elec­tion, Stone re­canted and said he’d re­peated in­cor­rect in­for­ma­tion.

Snipes wasn’t im­me­di­ately avail­able for com­ment af­ter Ru­bio’s string of Twit­ter com­ments.

Ear­lier Thurs­day, she said she did not want to be “guessti­mat­ing,” when asked how long the tab­u­la­tion would take. She said the vol­ume of mail-in bal­lots re­ceived that has made the count take so long.

CARLINE JEAN/SUN SEN­TINEL

Broward County Su­per­vi­sor of Elec­tions Brenda Snipes gives an up­date on bal­lots that are be­ing counted from the midterm elec­tion.

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