The action taken by Governor Rick Scott on August 30, 2018 to suspend Dr. Brenda C. Snipes as the Broward County Supervisor of Elections for Broward County was nothing less than mean-spirited and malicious. The Executive Order issued after 5 p.m. on a Friday was intended by Governor Scott to go unnoticed and without accountability.
When it became clear that the state races for U. S. Senate and for the Governor’s Office were tightening, a number of lawsuits were filed by Governor Scott’s campaign that were designed to slow down voting in Broward County. Governor Scott public requests included some documents that never existed and other documents that the Governor already had access to through his Secretary of State. For in-stance, while a recount was ongoing, the Governor wanted the number of votes that had already been counted – again the count was continuing every second and therefore, there was no such record.
In order to comply with some of the Governor’s requests, it meant that every director in every department had to ignore their regular duties relating to counting votes. The Governor’s actions were intended to be menacing and the Governor knew or should have known that his actions were going to interfere with the election. The Governor’s requests served only to drain SOE staff time and resources.
The “I” WORD
It is always puzzling how people of color are so easily labeled “incompetent.” Even a career administrator, such as Snipes, with a PHD in Organizational Leadership from Nova Southeastern University cannot escape the dreadful “I” word that recklessly rolls out of the mouths of people such as our current President of the United States. This same president tweeted a-bout Snipes and his unflattering words unleashed the crazies who now call her home and have necessitated armed protection. Trump and his cronies have created a climate that is now “open season” on people of color, and Black women in particular. The fact that a governor who is on his way out the door sees himself as a hero for shamelessly targeting and holding to a much higher standard a Black women who had already announced her resignation is troubling. Dr. Snipes is a person who has worked for decades engaging in real public service. Perhaps, Dr. Snipes should feel in good company with the likes of Congresswoman Maxine Waters and journalists such as April Ryan, who perform their jobs competently day in and day out while still receiving harsh and unequal treatment due to nothing more than the color of their skin.
Having been raised in segregated Alabama, Dr. Snipes has every reason to throw the race card on the table any chance she gets, however, she does not. She realizes that good people come in all races and faces. Following her appointment as Supervisor of Elections in 2003, this thinking has helped her to win three decisive elections in spite of the fact that some of Broward’s establishment, at times, supported far less qualified candidates. Snipes knows the value of treating all people with dignity and respect. No matter the party, Broward voters have rewarded her honest and forthright approach to good government.
We should be concerned about how this Governor has selectively unleashed his power of suspension. Suspensions have historically been reserved for those who committed serious crimes while in office. In the case of Snipes, this severe penalty has used to single out one person when the same actions (and worse) were duplicated in other parts of the state.
The zero tolerance standard for any misstep that Governor Scott has imposed on Snipes is apparently only applicable to Snipes. When you pull back the curtain to inspect elections,100% of the process of counting votes, it is not always pretty. You are dealing with hundreds of volunteers and legislative time periods that have become unreasonable to meet for large counties like Broward. In Florida, we saw that some large County Supervisors of Elections simply throw up their hands not bothering to even try to submit the second unofficial results. Something is incredibly wrong when those supervisors are spared from the demonization that Snipes has experienced when her staff made all attempts to move heaven and earth, all while working continually.
We have seen this strategy play out before where extremists on the right create alternative facts then demonize and bully anyone who does not agree with or support their agenda. The right wing playbook seems to be — create an environment of interference and a climate that would cause voters to distrust the voting process. After that, get everyone who agrees with you to write on online blogs, pepper the media with bad information and after a while, the bad information will become the truth.
Since 2003, nobody in this State has ever been removed for anything other than an actual crime. That person was the severely underfunded office run by Miriam Oliphant. No crime has been committed here. Governor Scott even tried to send in the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to find a crime that was nonexistent. It is my understanding that they are still trying. Snipes has committed no fraud, no misconduct…PERIOD! Just like the year 2000 when the phony protesters rolled into town, the same thing happened here just weeks ago. These day paid people all disappeared in enough time to get back to work on Monday.
GOVERNOR SCOTT’S EXECUTIVE ORDER
The Governor’s Executive Order was prepared haphazardly and is strikingly similar to a letter sent out by the Chair of the Republican Party of Florida, Blaise Ingoglia, weeks ago. The outstanding question that some have is whether the Executive Order was actually prepared by the leadership of the Republican Party of Florida rather than the Governor’s Office.
The Executive Order is, in large part, based on Broward County Circuit Judge Carol Lisa Phillips Order holding that public records are to be produced “immediately”. Problem is, this is not the law. Public records are to be produced in a reasonable time and under reasonable circumstances. When we advised the Governor’s lawyers that we would be setting a hearing on the Order in front of the new judge (where all cases had been consolidated) or appeal the Phillips Order, the case was immediately dismissed by Scott’s lawyers. Dr. Snipes was suspended at the end of the following day only to be replaced by a proven “slice and dice” hatchet man who has long performed the dirty work of the Governor.
The Executive Order contains allegations about Dr. Snipes for a case that she had already won in Court; allegations for a case that is currently on appeal (and Snipes’ replacement should now consider it a conflict); and a case that had been investigated and found to be untrue. The Order contained some matters for which Snipes had no control. One example involves a state approved outside vendor who designed a link that allowed the election results to be released a few minutes before 7 PM. The vendor signed an affidavit the same week admitting that it was their error. The matter was fully investigated and no further action was taken. In one instance, ballots were accidently destroyed untimely but were preserved completely by a state vendor using high technology that records the date and time of scanning. Unfortunately, these type of things take place all over this state. However, anything in Broward is somehow magnified to look insurmountable even when the issues are acknowledged and corrected.
ACCOMPLISHMENTS OF DR. BRENDA SNIPES
The accomplishments of Dr. Snipes are many over the past 15 years. We can all be very proud of the following things:
Since she was appointed on November 20, 2003, she was overwhelmingly elected countywide three separate times to serve as the Broward County Supervisor of Elections.
Snipes oversaw seventy-five permanent positions, which expand to more than six thousand temporary employees for major elections.
Snipes identified and developed office policies and procedures to move the SOE’s office forward. These polices were created to be in line with the requirements of the Florida Election Code.
Snipes established a Leadership Team whose members represented the major functions of the organization. Each of the team members has earned the designation of Florida Master Certified Election Professional (MFCEP), a program designed by the Florida Association of Supervisors of Elections working in conjunction with various major Florida universities. She ensured that all staff received development and training to support their roles and functions within the organization.
Snipes increased voter education and outreach to include events. She promoted voting in every way. Note: more voters voted in the mid-term election than ever in the history of Broward elections.
She designed a strategy and programs to include high school students in the election process. This had never been done before and has resulted in a robust program for kids to pre-register to vote and eventually vote after their 18th birthday.
She served honorably as the SOE of the state’s second largest county. Only Miami Dade is larger and in Miami Dade all county staff are subject to being called to work elections giving Miami-Dade an unlimited amount of money dedicated to elections. Miami-Dade also had a different structure of government. They spend an unlimited amount of money on elections structure of government and their SOE is not an independent office.
Broward was the first district in State of Florida to receive approval from the school district to close schools to students on Election Day — which allowed access to school facilities without compromising student safety.
Snipes designed training programs that involved Broward’s diverse population in the conduct of all elections.
Under Snipes’ leadership, Broward cast 715,119 votes out of 1,174,851.
Snipes was the first Broward SOE to publish all election materials in three different languages: English, Spanish, and Creole.
Under Snipes’ leadership, Broward has seen an increase in early voting to currently twenty-two sites with hundreds of thousands of people voting by this method.
Under Snipes’ leadership we have seen record increases in the last two general elections, 2012 and 2016, more than 800,000 voters now.
Snipes lead us in the transition from touch screen machines back to paper (optical scans) as the state mandated for all SOEs.
She established a hands-on practice laboratory for poll watchers.
She implemented the Election Connection to assist with other outreach efforts.
She has worked in two different locations — due to the lack of a facility to accommodate the entire office operations since the beginning of her tenure. She did this without engaging in public fights with the County Commission.
She kept an open door and transparent office for all voters of Broward County. Dr. Snipes has served us well.
As Dr. Snipes fights to preserve and maintain her good name, now, more than ever, we must all get ready for battle. We must all watch out for any decrease in SOE staffing; decrease in the diversity of the people working with elections; decrease in hours at early voting sites; decrease in equipment; decrease in polling places; decrease in languages shown on ballots; excessive purging of the voting rolls, decrease in voter outreach and all other issues that will serve to suppress voting. The suspension of Dr. Snipes was plain wrong! But, we are “the people” and together we can fight make sure that our collective voices are heard to preserve the core of our democracy, the right to vote.