With the eyes of the nation now intently focused on Florida’s election system amid three statewide recounts, news this week that mysterious ballot boxes had been found in Broward County raised suspicions of fraud among conservative onlookers and the supporters of Republicans who have seen their leads dwindle in the days since the election.
First it was at an elementary school in Miramar, two days after the election. Then on Saturday it was at a community center in Tamarac. The Broward Sheriff’s Office responded and notified the elections office.
Videos taken of the boxes, labeled “provisional ballots,” quickly jumped to the top of social media feeds and prominent GOP figures, like Florida Sen. Marco Rubio — himself a fierce critic of Broward’s Supervisor of Elections Office — have spread speculation that uncounted ballots could possibly be hiding inside. Others have posted videos of moving trucks unloading cargo at the supervisor’s office as evidence in their conspiracy that Democrats were trying to “steal” the election somehow.
“Maybe this box found this morning has office supplies in it,” Rubio tweeted on Saturday, linking to an article by The Floridian that was titled “More Provisional Ballots Found in Broward.”
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“I don’t know what’s in this sealed box found this morning by #BrowardSheriff. But this dysfunction in #BrowardElections is not acceptable. At a minimum it undermines public trust in the election & creates opportunity for mischief,” he added.
The county’s elections office quashed the rumors on Saturday, and the attorney for Supervisor of Elections Brenda C. Snipes called the allegations “ridiculous.”
The ballot boxes are not stuffed with secret votes, just election supplies, said Eugene Pettis, another Snipes’ attorney. The crates found were supply boxes that briefly function as provisional ballot boxes. Ballots stored inside on Election Day are taken out and stored separately, inside sealed orange bags, before being sent to the elections office.
Pettis said the county sent out 577 of the “dual-purposed supply boxes” to every precinct in Broward, and that Snipes’ office was in the process of collecting them, which he said explains the trucks.
Pettis held a demonstration for reporters Saturday, undoing the fasteners on a recently returned ballot box and revealing what was inside. The box is labeled as “supplies” on one side and “provisional ballots” on the other.
“This is an issue that’s a non-issue,” he said. “Anybody who attaches their reputations on the fact that ballots are being moved in the middle of the night, that’s ridiculous. That’s a baseless claim and we should be above that.”
But for conservative protesters gathered outside the Broward Supervisor of Elections office in Lauderhill throughout Saturday, the possibility of Broward County mishandling ballots was not unthinkable. Many called Snipes incompetent and argued that her office should have completed tallying votes by Election Day.