If we wanted to steal an elec­tion, we could have done bet­ter

South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Sunday) - - Opinion - By Fred Grimm

We don’t get enough credit around here for our out­right in­com­pe­tence.

Pro­test­ers out­side Broward County’s bal­lot count­ing cen­ter in Lauder­hill have been fairly burst­ing with assertions that us lo­cals are en­gaged in an elab­o­rate crim­i­nal con­spir­acy to steal the Florida elec­tion for the Dems. Never mind that the pur­ported heist, thus far, has come up 12,000 votes short in the U.S. Se­nate elec­tion,

34,000 in the gover­nor’s race.

Seems to me that if Broward Coun­tians were go­ing to risk prison for per­vert­ing an elec­tion, we’d make sure our felo­nious en­deavor didn’t come up sev­eral thou­sand votes short.

Some con­spir­acy. Next time, let’s break into Tif­fany’s and steal a Timex.

Yet, the gag­gle of pro­test­ers out­side the Broward elec­tions head­quar­ters in Lauder­hill re­fuses to ac­cept that the county’s elec­tion foibles were less about crim­i­nal in­tent than or­di­nary in­ep­ti­tude. They held hand-scrawled signs in­sist­ing that Elec­tions Su­per­vi­sor Brenda Snipes was a schem­ing crook. “Fake Votes.” “Su­per­vi­sor of Cor­rup­tions” and the well-worn: “Lock Her Up.”

They’re tak­ing their cue from Rick Scott, cur­rent gover­nor and ap­par­ent se­na­tor-elect, who de­clared, “I will not sit idly by while un­eth­i­cal lib­er­als try and steal this elec­tion from the great peo­ple of Florida.”

And from our ever-hy­per­bolic pres­i­dent, who’s been ob­sessed with elec­tion con­spir­acy the­o­ries since Hil­lary Clin­ton out­polled him by 2.9 mil­lion in the pop­u­lar vote. Trump re­fused to ac­knowl­edge that mis­man­age­ment might ex­plain why Broward had failed to tab­u­late all the county’s votes by elec­tion night. “When they call this woman in­com­pe­tent, they’re wrong,” Trump told the Daily Caller. He in­sisted Snipes is “very com­pe­tent but in a bad way.”

Ac­tu­ally, the Repub­li­cans ought to be toast­ing Brenda Snipes. Gu­ber­na­to­rial can­di­dates Ron DeSan­tis and es­pe­cially Rick Scott just might owe their po­lit­i­cal for­tunes to her bungling. There’s a

68 per­cent chance that if a Broward bal­lot goes miss­ing, or if a would-be voter is frus­trated by the long lines and goes home, or if one of her count­ing ma­chines goes hay­wire, those lost votes had been in­tended for Democrats.

In one of the more con­found­ing tab­u­la­tions,

26,105 Broward bal­lots failed to reg­is­ter votes for ei­ther Se­nate can­di­date. No other county comes close to such an un­der­vote. Maybe that was due to me­chan­i­cal scan­ning er­rors (in­cum­bent Sen. Bill Nel­son’s slim hopes hinge on a ma­chine fail­ure). More likely, say elec­tion ex­perts, vot­ers were con­fused by the de­sign of the elec­tion bal­lot used in cer­tain south county precincts. Se­nate choices were con­signed to the lower left-hand cor­ner of the page, just below the Cre­ole lan­guage bal­lot in­struc­tions. Pre­sum­ably, most of those lost votes would have gone to Nel­son, who car­ried the county with a 68.91 per­cent ad­van­tage and prob­a­bly would have polled an even higher per­cent­age in those par­tic­u­lar precincts.

The con­fus­ing bal­lot was like a valen­tine from Snipes to Scott. Yet he seems so ut­terly un­ap­pre­cia­tive.

Be­sides, down here in Broward, we know in­com­pe­tence when we see it. We know mis­man­age­ment. We elected Miriam Oliphant as elec­tion su­per­vi­sor back in 2000.

Oliphant, be­fore Gov. Jeb Bush yanked her from of­fice in 2003, busted her bud­get by more than a mil­lion bucks. She missed cru­cial meet­ings, lost ab­sen­tee bal­lots, failed to up­date voter rolls. She demon­strated breath­tak­ing ig­no­rance about the work­ings of her of­fice. She fired key staffers who might have sal­vaged the wreck­age. She re­placed them with un­qual­i­fied cronies, in­clud­ing her sis­ter’s er­ratic boyfriend, who was put in charge of the mail­room (where he mis­placed 300 ab­sen­tee bal­lots). She over­paid them with money her of­fice didn’t have.

The prob­lems Oliphant cre­ated in the elec­tions of­fice be­came ex­cru­ci­at­ingly ob­vi­ous to any­one in Broward County with even a vague in­ter­est in the demo­cratic process. She was muck­ing up elec­tions. Oliphant heaped blame on her own em­ploy­ees, on other county of­fi­cials, on her ven­dors, on the me­dia. Un­til Bush in­ter­vened, re­mov­ing her for “grave ne­glect, mis­man­age­ment and in­com­pe­tence.” (Like I said. We know mis­man­age­ment and in­com­pe­tence when we see it.)

Bush ap­pointed Brenda Snipes to re­place Oliphant. (Thanks a lot, Jeb.)

Ob­vi­ously, she wasn’t the an­swer. Broward County needs a num­bers-crunch­ing com­puter nerd to run elec­tions. The county needs a techno­geek with thick glasses, soup-stained tie and a pocket pro­tec­tor pro­trud­ing from the breast pocket of his short-sleeved J.C. Penny dress shirt. We need some­one who prefers al­go­rithms to ap­plause lines. Some­one who’ll track down miss­ing votes with the in­ten­sity of a mother seek­ing her in­fants.

In­stead, we’ve made a for­mer school marm the guardian of demo­cratic ex­pres­sion for 1,184,571 reg­is­tered vot­ers, with a ware­house full of out­dated tech­nol­ogy and a man­date to ex­e­cute un­work­able state re­count laws.

“We have been the laugh­ing stock of the world, elec­tion af­ter elec­tion, and we chose not to fix this,” U.S. Dis­trict Judge Mark Walker said in court Thurs­day. He was talk­ing about the state leg­is­la­ture, not Brenda Snipes.

So don’t blame us. Broward may have bun­gled an elec­tion, but as my old un­cle (a lo­cal pol in a West Vir­ginia county where elec­tions hung on the strate­gic dis­tri­bu­tion of half-pints bot­tles of whiskey) might have said, “We didn’t steal the damn elec­tion. It ain’t even stole.”

Fred Grimm (@grim­m_fred or [email protected]), a longtime res­i­dent of Fort Laud­erdale, has worked as a re­porter and colum­nist in South Florida since 1976.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.