An­tonacci vows to fix bal­lot prob­lems

Scott’s pick for Broward elec­tions su­per­vi­sor, re­plac­ing Snipes, is sworn in

Sun Sentinel Palm Beach Edition - - FRONT PAGE - By Larry Barszewski

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.

JOE CAVARETTA/SOUTH FLORIDA SUN SEN­TINEL

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.

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