Federal Judge Rebuked Broward Supervisor for Hiding 'Mystery' Voter Roll Manual
By now we all know the sordid history of Brenda Snipes' tenure as the Broward County supervisor of elections. Snipes, who was appointed to the position in 2003 by then-Gov. Jeb Bush, is currently embroiled in controversy for, among other things, refusing to follow the laws requiring public access to information about last week's election and mixing provisional ballots that had been rejected in with good ballots.
But Snipes' problems didn't start with the 2018 midterms. Broward's supervisor of elections has presided over years of elections in which there were irregularities and indications of rank incompetence. In 2016 she was found guilty of destroying provisional ballots, and last year, she was rebuked by a federal judge after she was caught hiding documents during litigation over the voter rolls in her county.
Snipes was in federal court in Miami in July of last year to answer allegations that the county's voter list contained hundreds if not thousands of ineligible voters because her office wasn't doing enough to purge them after it was alleged that more than 100 percent of the voting age population was registered to vote.
The Public Interest Legal Foundation represented the American Civil Rights Union and had asked U.S. District Judge Beth Bloom to order Broward County to remove ineligible voters, including dead people, non-citizens, felons, and individuals who had moved, from the rolls in order to reduce the possibility of voter fraud.
In October 2016 the plaintiff asked for documents explaining the procedures Snipes used to clean up the voter rolls. The ACRU specifically asked if there were any manuals that outlined the procedures for removing ineligible voters from the rolls and was told that none existed. As a result, the ACRU's defense was predicated on the claim that there were no manuals and that the supervisor of elections office had no procedures in place to ensure the removal of ineligible voters. In fact, the ACRU's expert witness testified that the lack of written procedures was a significant issue in the case.
But suddenly, on the second day of the trial — after the plaintiff's expert witness had testified about the lack of written procedures — lo and behold, Snipes' attorney, Burnadette Norris-Weeks, informed the court of the existence of a manual that was discovered in a warehouse. Snipes' attorney said she only found out about it when interviewing a witness the weekend before the trial began.
When Norris-Weeks finally turned over the manual, it was missing the relevant sections relating to removal of ineligible voters.
Astonishingly, Norris-Weeks admitted that after she learned of the existence of the manual she avoided looking at it. It appears that she didn't want to see it because then she would have been compelled to disclose it before the trial began. That ethical breach is what likely set Judge Bloom off, prompting her to scold Snipes' legal team.
Judge Bloom rebuked the defense team for withholding the "mystery manual." She said, "I'm quite concerned that the Defendant is readily conceding that a critical area that relates to list maintenance was absent from the manual, one of only two manuals that now has been discovered is in existence relating to list maintenance, that these 12 pages relating to these areas were not contained in the manual."
She went on to say that Snipes' legal team "clearly violated the Court's discovery order and the Rules of Civil Procedure, and our local rules with regard to production of discovery in a timely manner in order to allow everyone to properly prepare" for the trial. "You violated this court’s orders, federal rules and local rules of court” by hiding voter roll manuals, she said.
Bloom ultimately ruled in March of this year that the program Snipes has in place "makes a reasonable effort to remove the names of ineligible voters from the official lists of eligible voters by reason of death or change of address.” She said that the ACRU had not proven that Broward elections officials had violated the National Voting Rights Act.
The ACRU immediately appealed the decision to the 11th Circuit, seeking to overturn the ruling.
"Rampant voter fraud is possible because Broward County Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes refuses to conduct list maintenance to remove ineligible voters, as required by federal law," the ACRU said in a press release. "Snipes has done little to ensure that noncitizens, the deceased, those who vote in other states, those registered at commercial addresses, and those ineligible due to federal felony convictions are not registered, according to the lawsuit."
ACRU General Counsel Ken Klukowski said, “Federal law requires removing ineligible names from the voter rolls to safeguard our elections against fraud and tampering to ensure that democracy prevails. Broward County has failed to do so.”
This case, according to the ACRU, "asserts the right conferred by Congress to demand clean voter rolls. Section 8 of the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) requires the protection of citizens’ votes from dilution because a ballot can be cast for every name that appears on a voter registration list and there is no way to distinguish eligible voters from illegal ones."
Snipes told reporters last week, "If we make mistakes, we own mistakes. If there is something that the public needs to know, then we provide that information." That's laughable considering that Snipes and her legal team have a long history of violating disclosure rules and perhaps even engaging in subterfuge as it relates to elections in Broward County. She has no business running elections anywhere, let alone in Florida’s second most populous county.
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