Antonacci vows to fix ballot problems
Scott’s pick for Broward elections supervisor, replacing Snipes, is sworn in
Broward County’s new supervisor of elections says he wants to get to the bottom of the office’s ballotcounting problems in the November elections and to make sure they don’t surface again in the future.
Peter Antonacci, who was formally sworn in to the position Thursday by Chief Judge Jack Tuter in a downtown Fort Lauderdale courthouse ceremony, said he met with staff Tuesday about the problems and expects to have a report completed in the near future.
“I hope within the next few weeks I’ll have a consumable, small report that will speak to what went wrong and, hopefully, what we can do to make it right,” Antonacci said.
Antonacci was Gov. Rick Scott’s choice to replace former Elections Supervisor Brenda Snipes, who Scott suspended last Friday.
Scott based his suspension on Snipes’ failure to meet a state recount deadline, that more than 2,000 ballots went missing during the recount and because Snipes allowed 205 provisional ballots to be opened and counted before the county’s Canvassing Board determined their validity. He also said Snipes violated state and federal laws by prematurely destroying ballots from the 2016 elections and posted some county voting returns online in 2016 before polls had closed.
Antonacci has already been on
the job since Monday, getting himself acquainted with his staff and his duties, aware that his first test will come in March municipal elections that are scheduled to have races or ballot questions in at least six cities.
County commissioners said Tuesday they were concerned about Scott’s decision and asked their legal staff to research any options they may need to pursue. Several commissioners feared Antonacci could be a plant by Scott who would take steps to lower voter turnout in heavily Democratic Broward County, helping to boost the chance of President Donald Trump carrying Florida and being re-elected in 2020.
But Antonacci got a ringing endorsement Thursday from former Florida Attorney General Bob Butterworth, a Democrat, who is Antonacci’s former boss.
“I can’t think of a better person to do this job than Pete Antonacci,” Butterworth said. “He’s been asked by a number of governors to do the most difficult jobs, and it happened again.”
Scott has used Antonacci in a variety of roles since becoming governor. Antonacci served as his general counsel and later was named by Scott to temporarily step into a number of positions, including Palm Beach County state attorney, South Florida Water Management District director and most recently head of Enterprise Florida.
Antonacci was Florida’s statewide prosecutor from 1988 to 1991 and served as Butterworth’s top deputy from 1990 to 1997. Antonacci himself was a Democrat until 2010.
Antonacci said he was going apartment-hunting Thursday afternoon and will become a Broward County resident and voter.
“I’m about to embark on a great mission and that great mission is to see to it that every eligible voter is registered to vote and that every vote counts,” Antonacci said. “I’m pleased to report that I’ve interviewed the supervisor’s staff and we have some very good, honorable public officials that are ready to conduct elections.”
However, he said he has no designs on running for the office in 2020.
“I’m care-taking and I’m caretaking until the people of Broward County speak in their own voice to elect the person they want to run this office in 2020,” Antonacci said.
Antonacci was raised in Hialeah. He has undergraduate and law degrees from Florida State University.
Antonacci is familiar with past problems in the Broward elections office. Former Gov. Jeb Bush chose him in 2004 to be the special prosecuting counsel in the Senate trial of former Broward Elections Supervisor Miriam Oliphant. Bush had suspended Oliphant in 2003 and appointed Snipes to the position. The Senate in 2005 voted to uphold Bush’s removal of Oliphant.
Snipes, who has said she will challenge Scott’s suspension, will now be facing a similar Senate process.
After the election recounts were finished, Snipes announced she would resign effective Jan. 4, but she rescinded that resignation following Scott’s action.
New Broward Supervisor of Elections Peter Antonacci, center, is sworn into office by Chief Judge Jack Tuter while former Florida Attorney General Bob Butterworth holds the Bible at the Broward County Courthouse on Thursday.