Elections

No, those ballot boxes found in Broward don’t contain votes, officials say.

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.”

“I don’t know what’s in this sealed box found this morning by . But this dysfunction in 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.

More than 100 supporters of Democrat Andrew Gillum, some organized by their unions, came donning blue T-Shirts. A smaller Republican camp set up across from them, on the left-hand side of the entrance, though more arrived later, about 60 in total. Police set up barricades after protests got heated Friday morning.



The margin of error and the potential for recount charged the rhetoric. Republicans in the crowd questioned why votes weren’t tabulated Tuesday night, though the unofficial count is not due to the state on the night of an election. Absentee ballots must be counted if they are received before polls close election night, and provisional ballots, often issued to those lacking ID or who show up at the wrong precinct, must be reviewed and accepted or rejected. The deadline for counties to report unofficial results to the state was noon Saturday.


The Florida Secretary of State announced statewide recounts in the race for U.S. Senate, governor and agriculture commissioner after unofficial vote totals cobbled together from all 67 counties put the races within the legally mandated recount range of half of one percent or less. The recount in Broward County will begin after 7 a.m. on Sunday.


Jennifer Eady, a 46-year-old West Palm Beach resident, said she came to the election office Saturday because she wants Florida to stay Republican. As an immigrant from Germany, she doesn’t want socialism in the U.S., she said. She also said she thinks Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes should be in jail.



“This is a big circus,” she said. “We want to follow the law.”


While Gillum supporters chanted “Count every vote,” Patrick Hurly, a 63-year-old Fort Lauderdale resident, stood away from both parties, observing.


He said he supported Ron DeSantis for Governor and Rick Scott for Senate because as a born-again Christian, he is pro-life, but if not not for the Democrats’ position on that, he would align with that party more. He came to Tamarac because he wanted to see how the vote review process worked, given speculation about the boxes found after the election and allegations of mishandling of ballots. Hurly himself dropped his mail-in ballot at the Supervisor of Elections Office in October.


“I’m not sure whether my vote was counted,” he said. “All you ask is there is a fair count.”


He said he doesn’t know whether he believes Snipes intentionally mishandled ballots, but he said he thinks she is incompetent and should be removed.


“I just wish there was transparency,” he said.
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