Florida’s Secretary of State referred Broward Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes to the county’s state attorney and sheriff Tuesday night after her office posted elections results before polls closed at 7 p.m. in violation of state law.
Results showing early voting tallies and partial numbers for absentee ballots were posted around 6:45 p.m. on the supervisor’s website. They were promptly taken down, and a vendor took responsibility.
State laws explicitly say that “the tabulation of votes cast or the results of such uploads may not be made public before the close of the polls on election day.” Anyone who violates the statutes commits a third-degree felony.
Snipes, who easily won re-election Tuesday, has not commented on the error. Florida’s Secretary of State Ken Detzner, who oversees the state’s elections, called the slip-up “unacceptable.” He said he has not been in touch with Snipes but quickly informed Gov. Rick Scott of the breach.
After the snafu, Mindy Perkins, CEO of VR Systems, the contractor that runs the supervisor’s website, took responsibility for the error. She said a Broward County employee contacted VR Systems late Tuesday to ask for assistance in creating an elections results link to the county’s website.
It’s unclear how, but that caused results to go live on Snipes’ website.
“A staff member of ours inadvertently created a link that was a preview of the election results that were not intended to be public,” she explained. “Because of the error that link to the preview was made to go live. As soon as we recognized that … we started the process of fixing it.”
It’s not clear what consequences, if any, Snipes’ office or VR Systems will face. Asked if there will be a fine, Detzner said, “It’s a little more serious than that.”
Judge Sharon Zeller, the chair of Broward’s canvassing board, asked Perkins to submit a written affidavit explaining what happened. But she said she doesn’t believe criminal charges are coming.
“It was an inadvertent error. If they were to be prosecuted the state would have to prove intent,” Zeller said. “This type of thing doesn’t make anyone happy. Them being a third-party contractor, we have no control over it.”