Broward County

Embattled Broward elections supervisor Brenda Snipes submits resignation

Brenda Snipes, Broward County’s embattled supervisor of elections, submitted her resignation Sunday.

Snipes’ resignation, first reported by the Sun-Sentinel, came only hours after her staff ended a brutal two-week stretch in which they misplaced 2,000 ballots during a statewide recount, mixed about two dozen invalid ballots with about 200 good ones, and blew a deadline to submit machine recount results to the state.

Snipes was attacked as corrupt by President Donald Trump and other Republicans, accused without evidence of trying to steal the U.S. Senate election by Gov. Rick Scott and maligned as “incompetent” by U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio. Egged on by the allegations, Republican protestors spent days outside Snipes’ Lauderhill headquarters during a state-mandated recount claiming that she was rigging the elections.

The Florida Department of State provided Snipes’ letter of resignation on Monday morning. It was sent to Gov. Rick Scott, and the effective date is Jan. 4.

“It has been my passion and honor to serve as the Supervisor of Elections for Broward County voters,” Snipes’ letter begins. “When I was appointed to this position on November 20, 2003, my initial commitment was to serve out the remaining term of office and pass the torch to the person who would be elected in the next election cycle. Needless to say, that was almost fifteen years ago.

“Although I have enjoyed this work tremendously over these many election cycles, both large and small, I am ready to pass the torch. Therefore, I request that you accept my letter of resignation effective January 4, 2019.”

Attempts to reach Snipes were unsuccessful. An employee at her Ft. Lauderdale office said a 2 p.m. press conference has been scheduled, but Snipes’ administrative assistant now says that information is incorrect, and no press conference is scheduled.

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Evelyn Pérez-Verdia, a former communications consultant for Snipes’ office, tweeted early Sunday evening that Snipes had sent her resignation to the state.

“I spoke to one of her key people, [who] has confirmed that the resignation letter was sent today,” Pérez-Verdia said on Twitter.

Snipes’ resignation ends a 15-year run that began in 2003 when then-governor Jeb Bush appointed her to replace beleaguered elections supervisor Miriam Oliphant, whom he’d suspended over mismanagement of her office. Snipes was elected in 2004 and reelected three times after, the latest in 2016 — an election in which she was lambasted for leaving a medical marijuana ballot question off some ballots and for illegally releasing vote totals before polls had closed.

Both issues were blamed on vendors.

But Snipes, 75, had a long history of trouble in her department. Republican attorneys accused her of improper procedures during the presidential election — attacks she blamed on politics in the state’s most Democratic county — and she was later admonished by a judge for prematurely destroying ballots from a congressional race. By last week, Bush, the man who appointed her, was among those calling for her removal.

Most recently, during the 2018 primaries, Democratic consultants grumbled about her department after it was slow in releasing results — ultimately a precursor for the general election, during which Snipes’ office continued for days to process early and absentee ballots, eventually helping to push races for governor, U.S. Senate and agriculture commissioner into mandated machine recounts. She lacked explanations when her office continued to process tens of thousands of early and absentee ballots in the two days that followed the close of polls on the midterm elections, and later ordered by a judge to turn over public records after Scott sued her for information that should have been publicly available.

“It’s a big operation but there are some things that need to be tweaked on all sides in terms of the processes that make up elections,” Snipes told reporters after the Broward canvassing board submitted its final 2018 elections to the state. Asked if she was concerned that governor-elect Ron DeSantis might suspend her from office, she said “my attorney says I should not answer that.”

Snipes’ resignation means that her appointment will be up to Florida’s governor. Scott will be sworn in Jan. 3 as a U.S Senator, meaning her scheduled resignation would leave the office open during the interim reign of current Lieutenant Governor Carlos Lopez-Cantera. DeSantis won’t be sworn in until Jan. 8.

It’s not yet clear whether Lopez-Cantera would appoint Snipes’ replacement or leave the seat open until DeSantis becomes governor. Snipes’ term runs until 2020.

This story was updated Monday morning to clarify the circumstances of her potential replacement, and to include Snipes’ letter of resignation and the effective date of that action.

Miami Herald reporter Alex Harris contributed to this report.

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