South Florida law professor and 2016 Democratic congressional candidate Tim Canova is calling for a congressional investigation into why Broward County Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes destroyed all of the ballots in his 2016 primary race against Debbie Wasserman Schultz in Florida’s 23rd Congressional District.
Canova lost to Wasserman Schultz by 13 points in their bitter Democratic primary in the CD-23 race in the summer of 2016.
The revelation that Snipes’ office had destroyed all of the ballots came about only after both Canova and independent reporter Lulu Friesdat made several different public records requests over the past year for access to the paper ballots used in the August 2016 primary. Canova, a law professor at Florida International University, then iled a lawsuit against the Broward County elections head under Florida’s public records law this June after he grew weary of waiting for her to respond to his request to inspect the ballots in his August 2016 primary. The lawsuit revealed that Snipes ordered the destruction of all the ballots in October, several months after he made his initial request. According to election law, Snipes was required under federal law to maintain the ballots for 22 months, and voting experts quoted in a POLITICO Florida published on Friday maintain that there’s no question that Snipes’ office has broken the law.
“The ballot destruction raises serious questions: Why engage in this blatant lawbreaking? To cover up something worse? What has the Supervisor of Elections been hiding?” Canova asked in a statement issued Friday afternoon. “We demand state and federal investigations into the ballot destruction and prosecution of illegal wrongdoing.”
Canova also is calling for Gov. Rick Scott to replace Snipes and her directors and top staff, noting that there is precedence to do so in that same office. In 2003, then Gov. Jeb Bush replaced Miriam Oliphant, who had been accused of mishandling the 2002 gubernatorial primary, with Snipes.
Florida Politics contacted Snipes’ office on Friday afternoon for comment. An official took down a reporter’s contact information, but never replied back.
An attorney for the Broward County Supervisor of Elections’ office told POLITICO that they did not break the law because they made electronic copies of the ballots. Canova disagrees.
“Destruction of ballots prevents any reliable audit of the election results. We are left dependent on scanned ballot images created and sorted by scanning software that requires inspection by software experts,” the progressive Democrat says, adding that scanning software is considered proprietary software, owned and and controlled by the private vendors, and often protected from independent inspection and analysis.
After he lost his congressional challenge to Wasserman Schultz last summer, Canova chose not to contest the results. But Friesdat, the independent journalist, was curious about the contest and made two public-records requests in November of 2016, and then submitted a third request this past March. Canova joined the requests and filed his lawsuit in June.
Canova says the only way to deal with the issue now is for Congress to investigate and hold public hearings on what happened during the primary election. And he thinks the Congress should investigate therelationships between the vendors that control the electronic voting machines and software, their officers and directors, the Broward Supervisor of Elections office, Democratic party officials,
and candidates for public office.
Late Friday afternoon, Canova sent out a fundraising email to supporters, requesting funding that could help in a lawsuit against Snipes’ office.