November 04, 2016

At Broward elections office, Republican and Democratic lawyers keep a watchful eye



The scrutiny of the Broward elections office continues Friday as Republican and Democratic lawyers are observing the canvassing of ballots at the elections warehouse in Lauderhill.

Both parties are poised to have lawyers observe election workers open mail ballots throughout the weekend.

On Wednesday, Republican Party of Florida Chairman Blaise Ingoglia sent a letter to Broward Supervisor of elections Brenda Snipes alleging that her office had improperly started opening  mail-in ballots without the proper review of the canvassing board. Ingoglia also objected to Snipes’ policy to only allow the public to observe the process for about a half hour each day.

In response, Broward Judge John Fry, a member of the canvassing board, said on Wednesday he would be present whenever the canvassing of ballots takes place. He also said that the public -- including media and lawyers on behalf of political parties -- could watch the process.

“I am here and will be here between now and Monday every minute,” that canvassing is underway, Fry told a group of observers Friday afternoon. “I think we have statutorily complied. I’m going to be here. The residents of Broward County deserve this. There should be no taint.”

Among the observers on tour: Tim Donnolly, public corruption chief for Broward State Attorney Mike Satz. On Thursday, Satz’s office announced that it had opened a voter fraud hotline.

When asked if he was investigating any complaints, Donnolly replied “I’m here to ask questions.”

Donnolly noted that there is identification on the envelopes which contain the ballot. He asked if once the ballot is removed from the envelope if election workers can identify who the voter is and he was told that they can’t.

Snipes has said she followed a lawful procedure before Fry stepped in. Since Snipes is on the ballot, she can’t be on the canvassing board so a judge appointed electors -- county employees -- who have been on hand observing canvassing daily.

Asked about why she previously only allowed 30 minutes of observation by the public, Snipes said “it’s the policy we had in place at the time.”

The observer on Friday morning for the Republicans was David Shestokas, a lawyer for the Republican National Lawyers Association who is based in Chicago but is a member of the Florida bar. Ediberto Roman, a Florida International University law professor, observed for the Democrats. Roman does Hispanic outreach in Miami-Dade for Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Afternoon observes included Joseph Harbaugh, a Nova Southeastern University law professor, and on the Republican side Shari McCartney, a director at the Tripp Scott law firm.

On Monday, the full canvassing board will convene and examine absentee ballots that lack a signature or have a mismatch in the signature.

Snipes said Friday morning that the last count she heard was that more than 800 lacked signatures. A document from her office Thursday showed 78 mismatched signatures. Those numbers fluctuate daily because voters can come in and resolve any problems with their signature.

“I think the election is going extremely well,” Snipes said Friday. “It’s unfortunate we have a lot of extra things we have to deal with.”

But Snipes said she did not object to Fry opening up access to the public.

At around 4 p.m., an elections worker told the room full of people opening ballots that they were done for the day which drew some cheers. That prompted Fry to cap off the day with a quip: "I am Judge Fry and I approve this message!"

(Miami Herald photo by David Smiley shows Judge John Fry (left) with David Shestokas, a lawyer on behalf of the Republican National Lawyers Association.)

November 03, 2016

Broward elections supervisor says GOP claims that she mishandled ballots is "totally inaccurate"


Calling allegations that her office mishandled absentee ballots “incendiary,” Broward elections supervisor Brenda C. Snipes told Republican attorneys after an inside look at her operations Thursday morning that the state’s bluest county is doing everything legally and by the book.

“We don’t run a slipshod operation here,” Snipes told two GOP lawyers who came to South Florida from Chicago and Houston. “So for someone to say we mishandled thousands of absentee ballots — that’s totally inaccurate.”

Snipes was visibly defiant one day after Republican Party of Florida Chairman Blaise Ingoglia accused her office of opening tens of thousands of mail-in ballots without the proper review of an independent canvassing board tasked with overseeing and certifying elections. Ingoglia — who backed off Wednesday following a compromise — also said Snipes had erred by giving the public only a half-hour each morning to observe.

Keep reading here.

Show up in Broward seeking an absentee ballot? Get ready to wait

Voters who showed up at the Broward Supervisor of Elections office in Lauderhill asking for a vote-by-mail ballot had a long wait today.

Betty Jones said she arrived at about 1 p.m. seeking a ballot for her mother, Betty Smith, a 90-year-old Fort Lauderdale resident who never received her ballot in the mail. Jones said about one dozen voters sat in a hallway waiting for ballots and Jones got hers at about 6:45 p.m.

"There's got to be a better process to handle walk-ins," Jones told the Miami Herald after she got her ballot. "I don't mind waiting my turn, but there's got to be a better system."

Herman Rivera said his wife Tabitha arrived at about 2 p.m. trying to get a ballot for their son David who now lives in New York. Rivera then took his wife's place waiting for the ballot and eventually got it a few minutes before 7 p.m.

Elections workers repeatedly said it would take a half hour.

"They could have said from the beginning it will take four or five hours," he said.

Dozel Spencer, operations director at the Lauderhill site for Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes, said voters who show up unannounced seeking a ballot will have to wait.

"If people call ahead and let us know we will have it prepared," he said. 

The Supervisor of Elections office can be reached at 954-357-7050.

More than 161,000 vote-by-mail ballots and 310,000 ballots at early voting sites have been cast in Broward County

The actions of Snipes' office have been under close scrutiny in the home stretch of a close presidential battle in Florida. Broward County has 600,000 registered Democrats -- the highest in the state. 


Broward prosecutors open election fraud hotline

Broward State Attorney Mike Satz has opened an election fraud hotline for residents to report potential crimes through Tuesday.

This is the first time Satz, a Democrat in Florida's most left-leaning county, has opened such a hotline. The Florida Division of Elections also has a hotline.

Residents with first-hand knowledge are asked to provide the date, time, place and specific circumstances.

“It is important in this and every election that voters feel comfortable knowing that their vote counts, and that the election process is beyond reproach,” Satz said in a press release. “We hope that those who have first-hand knowledge of any potentially criminal voter fraud will contact us or local police.”

The Broward hotline number is 954-831-7487. The state hotline is 1-877-Voterfraud.

October 31, 2016

PolitiFact: No proof that Hillary Clinton and Broward Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes met



As early voters in Florida started casting votes, conservative websites buzzed about new evidence of crooked campaign tactics by Hillary Clinton to secure the crucial battleground state.

The alleged scheme centered on left-leaning Broward County, already in the news for distributing some mail-in ballots without Amendment 2, a proposal to legalize medical marijuana.

The claims originated from Roger Stone, a Donald Trump supporter and former campaign operative who talked of a "secret" meeting in an interview to conspiracy theorist and radio show host Alex Jones on Oct. 26.

"Yesterday Hillary Clinton shows up in Broward County — slips into a private meeting with the woman who runs the board of elections," said Stone, who lives in Fort Lauderdale.

It’s common for election supervisors to meet with party officials if they have questions about election procedures. But a meeting directly with a presidential candidate would be unusual. Broward has about 600,000 Democratic voters — the highest number in Florida — so it is a key county for Clinton.

Jones has millions of followers. The claim about Clinton secretly meeting with Brenda Snipes took off on social media, and some suggested that it was part of a voter fraud scheme.

We found no evidence that such a meeting took place — because it didn’t.

Within days, Stone retracted his claim. (A retraction doesn’t allow a political figure to avoid the Truth-O-Meter, but we will explain what he initially said and then his latest explanation.)

Miami Herald photo by Carl Juste

October 30, 2016

Hillary Clinton vows to fight for underdogs in South Florida



Hillary Clinton campaigned before African-American and LGBTQ voters in Broward County Sunday, two reliable Democratic voting blocs.

Her overall message to an African-American church in Fort Lauderdale and a gay club in Wilton Manors was the same: she will fight against discrimination while she accused Donald Trump of stoking it.

“Donald Trump has insulted more than half our population,” she said at the Manors Complex club, listing African Americans, Latinos, POWs and women. “I have been fighting for families and underdogs my entire life. I’m not stopping now.”

Clinton tweaked her messages for the two separate audiences. She talked about how the LGBT community continues to face discrimination at work and her desire to preserve the right of same-sex marriage while she praised the New Mount Olive Baptist Church in Fort Lauderdale for working to improve neglected neighborhoods and spoke about her calls to reform the criminal justice system and invest in early childhood education.

Clinton, who is Methodist, quoted Scripture at the church.

“Scripture tells you when there is no vision the people perish,” Clinton said, and then said she would edit that message. “When there is negative, hateful, divisive vision the people also perish.”

Keep reading here.

October 29, 2016

Hillary Clinton to campaign in Wilton Manors Sunday



Hillary Clinton will campaign at a gay-friendly club in Wilton Manors Sunday.

She will attend a rally at The Manor Complex, 2345 Wilton Drive, at 2 p.m. Doors open at noon. The public can RSVP here.

This will be Clinton's first campaign event in Wilton Manors, a municipality in left-leaning Broward County, has a large openly gay community. Broward has about 600,000 registered Democrats -- the largest in Florida. 

The LGBT community is a reliable Democratic voting bloc. Clinton came out in support of same-sex marriage in 2013 in a video for the Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights group.

Clinton appears at a Jennifer Lopez concert in downtown Miami tonight.

October 28, 2016

Broward judge rules in favor of elections officials in marijuana ballot case

Snipes pix


A Broward judge ruled Friday morning that the county’s elections office has already taken appropriate steps to rectify the problem of a few ballots that omitted the medical marijuana amendment.

Circuit Judge Carol-Lisa Phillips issued an order shortly before noon denying a motion by a marijuana legalization group that sued Broward Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes last week after two Oakland Park voters received absentee ballots that omitted Amendment 2 to legalize medical marijuana statewide. Later, two Plantation voters also received mail-in ballots that omitted the amendment.

Phillips wrote that NORML of Florida failed to “demostrate irreparable harm or a violation of a clear civil right.”

Norm Kent, the attorney who sued Snipes on behalf of NORML, had asked the court to order Snipes to post signs at polling places and on social media and the mail alerting voters to check their ballots to verify they contain the amendment. But Phillips wrote that Snipes had already taken steps to fix the situation, including providing replacement ballots to those who asked for them and by instructing election officials to examine ballots to determine if they contain the amendment.

Keep reading here.
Miami Herald photo of Brenda Snipes by Marsha Halper

October 27, 2016

Broward judge hears witnesses in marijuana ballot case

Snipes pix


A Broward judge said Thursday she will rule promptly in a case filed by marijuana legalization activists who sued the Broward Supervisor of Elections after a few ballots were found that lacked the medical marijuana amendment.

Norm Kent, a lawyer for NORML of Florida, asked Judge Carol-Lisa Phillips to order elections officials to post signs at polling places to alert voters to look for Amendment 2, a constitutional amendment to allow medical marijuana.

A lawyer for Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes argued that signs aren't necessary and that Snipes has already taken appropriate steps to protect the voting process.

Keep reading here.


Fact-checking Marco Rubio and Patrick Murphy in Broward College debate



U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy clashed over Obamacare and each other’s resumes Wednesday night in their second and final debate for Rubio’s Senate seat.

The pair met at Broward College in Davie with less than two weeks before Election Day.

PolitiFact Florida fact-checked statements each candidate made during the event. Here’s our running list of things we’ve examined.

Keep reading here.