Judge’s ruling that ballots were illegally destroyed continues Broward election woes

Miami Herald by David Smiley

May 14, 2018

Florida’s Secretary of State plans to send an elections expert to the state’s second-largest county during the upcoming elections to “ensure that all laws are followed,” after a judge ruled that the Broward Supervisor of Elections illegally destroyed ballots cast in a 2016 congressional race.

Broward Circuit Judge Raag Singhal issued an order Friday determining that Supervisor Brenda Snipes’ office improperly discarded thousands of ballots cast two years ago in the Democratic primary race between Tim Canova and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz. In a ruling first reported by Politico, Singhal sided with Canova, who filed a lawsuit last year after he said Snipes ignored and then illegally obstructed his request to copy and inspect ballots.

Snipes contends that her office kept scanned, electronic copies of the ballots and did nothing wrong. She plans to challenge the order. But heading into the mid-term elections, Singhal’s determination that Snipes broke state and federal law is sure to spark controversy around an office that oversees voting in Florida’s most reliably Democratic county.

“Given all the scrutiny going on about elections processes these days and elections concerns, one has to wonder why on the eve of having to produce these records they were destroyed,” Frank Rainer, an attorney for Canova, said in an interview.

Canova and Snipes have been wrangling over ballots for 18 months, dating back to a records request filed by a Canova representative shortly after he lost the primary election for Florida’s 23rd Congressional District to Wasserman Schultz by a 16-point margin in a race where nearly 200,000 votes were cast. The district dips a little into Dade County, but is mostly located in Broward.

Concerned about the integrity of the election, Canova wanted to inspect paper ballots and obtain copies. He sued in June 2017, arguing that Snipes was stonewalling him.

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