Embattled Broward elections chief may step down after recount

'It is time to move on,' Brenda Snipes tells reporters Tuesday

By Vic Micolucci - I-TEAM reporter, anchor, Tim Swift, WPLG-TV, Associated Press

LAUDERHILL, Fla. - At the center of Florida's vote recount storm is an elections supervisor with a checkered past whose Democratic-dominated county has been the target of protests and accusations, including by President Donald Trump, that something fraudulent is afoot.

Lawyers for Republican Gov. Rick Scott, who is in a razor-thin Senate race with incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson, claim Broward Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes committed fraud without presenting any evidence. Trump has echoed those claims on Twitter.

Nelson, whose campaign won a court challenge Tuesday giving neighbor Palm Beach County an extra five days to complete its machine recount, was back in Washington Tuesday as the U.S. Senate reconvened. But his fight to retain his seat was still top of mind.

"Sadly, it's become clear that my opponent isn't interested in making sure every lawful vote is counted. Instead, he's been using his power as governor to try to undermine the voting process. He's thrown around words like 'voter fraud,' with no proof," Nelson said.

Scott didn't make any public comments Tuesday, but his campaign released a statement saying, in part: "Senator-elect Rick Scott is gearing up for his first trip to Washington since winning the election for new-member orientation ... with plans to get started on his mission of reforming D.C. and making it work for Florida families -- not career politicians."

Elections workers in Broward County were still sorting through all the ballots and didn't begin the recount ordered Sunday until late Tuesday morning.

"We will complete the recount. There has never been a deadline that we have missed," Snipes said Tuesday.

But Snipes told reporters Tuesday that she's considering stepping aside as supervisor of elections after the recount amid a firestorm of criticism over how her office has handled recent elections.

“It is time to move on," Snipes said. “I haven’t finalized that. I’ll just check with my family. They’ll tell me what I’m doing.”

Many Republicans, including former Gov. Jeb Bush who appointed Snipes in 2002, have called for Snipes to be fired in recent days. 

"There is no question that Broward County Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes failed to comply with Florida law on multiple counts, undermining Floridians’ confidence in our electoral process. Supervisor Snipes should be removed from her office following the recounts," Bush wrote on Twitter.

Investigators say there are no indications of fraud in Broward County's vote. Yet, Snipes, a Democrat, remains a GOP target.

Snipes' critics have pointed to an incident in 2016, where her office destroyed ballots in a congressional race against a judge's order. Gov. Rick Scott has filed multiple lawsuits against Snipes' office, saying Broward officials have not been transparent enough during the recount process.

Broward County, a Democratic stronghold, has struggled to carry out the recount. Nearby Miami-Dade County was halfway recounting more than 1 million votes before Broward started counting ballots. Workers in Lauderhill were sorting and separating its 800,000 ballots until Tuesday morning.

In Palm Beach County, Judge Karen Geivers has ordered that its election officials be given an extra five days to finish its machine recount to finish its machine recount. Palm Beach County’s supervisor of elections told news sources said she expects that ruling on a motion filed by Nelson's campaign to be challenged in federal court, where another Nelson lawsuit is due to be heard Wednesday.

RELATED: Nelson, backers turn to federal court in election fight

Outside the elections office, demonstrators from the Republican Party hosted a tailgate party of sorts, calling for an end to what they call corruption.

"It’s been going on for years. Decades. And we need to clean it up because this is not fair to the voters at Florida," GOP demonstrator Sofia Manolesco said.

A couple dozen yards away, faithful Democrats were pushing their agenda.

"We need to let every vote count and let the chips fall where they may," Carolyn Wilson said. "This is America. We have to be fair."

Charles Zelden, a political science professor at Nova Southeastern University who wrote a book on the 2000 recount between George W. Bush and Al Gore, said anything could happen.

"The likeliness is that Gov. Scott is going to win. The likeliness is that DeSantis is going to win. But likely doesn’t mean it will happen," Zelden said. "Just ask the Democrats what happened in 2016."

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