Evidence Suggests Ballots Mishandled on Larger Scale in Broward County, Florida

Petr Svab
By Petr Svab
November 14, 2018Politics
Evidence Suggests Ballots Mishandled on Larger Scale in Broward County, Florida
A device is used to straighten ballots before machine counting during a recount at the Broward County Supervisor of Elections office in Lauderhill, Florida, on Nov. 11, 2018. (Joe Skipper/Getty Images)

Two pieces of evidence have emerged that solidify allegations of ballot mishandling in Florida’s Broward County after the midterm election.

The evidence lends credence to officials and concerned citizens who have cried foul over some apparent irregularities.

Florida’s secretary of state ordered recounts of six tight races on Nov. 10, including races for senator, governor, and agriculture commissioner. Gov. Rick Scott, who ran for the Senate against incumbent Bill Nelson, called for an investigation on Nov. 8 after Broward and Palm Beach counties kept adding early voting and absentee ballots two days after the deadline stipulated by law.

Given Broward County’s record of irregularities, the election was under close scrutiny and, again, allegations of mishandling emerged.

Ballots in Cars

One allegation that took off on social media traces back to JoAnn Knox, a supporter of the independent congressional candidate in Florida’s 23rd district, Tim Canova.

Canova has been raising alarms about election inconsistencies in the state for years. In 2016, he ran as a Democrat with the endorsement of Bernie Sanders and lost in the primary against incumbent Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Canova suspected election tampering and sued for the Broward County ballots. But before the case was decided, the ballots were destroyed by Broward County Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes—by mistake, she said.

Concerned about the election’s integrity, on Nov. 6, Knox went to observe the closing and tabulation of the vote at the Volunteer Park polling site in Plantation, part of the Miami metro area in Broward County.

The poll workers let her in around 7:25 p.m., after the last voter had left.

“What I witnessed for the next hour was a room full of people, operating 3 different precincts in the same room, frantically packing everything up and running around looking for things,” she wrote in a detailed Facebook post.

The workers packed everything in bags and boxes and used specially numbered zip ties of different colors to seal the containers.

“It didn’t seem to matter what color went on what and I did not see anyone logging what number zip tie sealed any given thing,” she wrote.

The ties were also used to seal large blue bags that stored the completed ballots.

“One thing that really stuck with me was the fact that Ziplock bags of these ties were just laying around on the tables for anyone to take,” she wrote. “I kept thinking that there really was nothing guaranteeing that those ballot bags couldn’t be opened and resealed (with no way of anyone knowing).”

As Knox headed back to her car, she saw two women carrying a box labeled “provisional ballots.”

“One lady told me ‘the truck left these out there,’” Knox wrote.

She took a picture of the women and continued to her car. Then, at the far end of the parking lot, she saw cars lined up to an Enterprise rental box truck. One after another, the cars unloaded bags and boxes, which were then loaded onto the truck. Among the cargo were the blue bags used to store completed ballots. Knox took a video, noting some of the cars only had one person inside, which raised the possibility that somebody could tamper with the ballots with nobody around to see.

In a bizarre scene, the video shows a sports car pulling up to the truck. A person in an orange reflective vest opens the door, pulls out two of the blue bags, and drags them to the truck.

“Officer, are these people coming from other precincts,” Knox is heard asking one man on the scene, possibly a Broward County Sheriff deputy. His response appears to be “yes,” though it can’t be heard clearly.

Eugene Pettis, Snipes’s lawyer, told reporters that the boxes labeled “provisional ballots” have “double purpose.” The ballots are shipped in them to the precincts, but then taken out. The boxes are then filled with leftover election supplies and the Supervisor’s office was collecting them after the elections using trucks.

Pettis’ explanation raised the possibility that the blue bags weren’t filled with ballots, as Knox wrote, but contained other, less sensitive items.

But that explanation has been undermined by another video released on Nov. 11 by Progressive Alliance, a group that, among other initiatives, supports Canova.

The video, purportedly shot on election day at the Rick Case Honda polling site in Davie, Broward County, shows poll workers taking ballots out of voting machines and putting them inside the blue bags. One of the poll workers, apparently displeased with being filmed, then moves large equipment to block the view of the observers. Election officials are required to allow up to three people to observe the closing of the vote under Florida law. Interfering with observers is a misdemeanor offense.

Provisional Ballots Found

Pettis’s explanation for the absentee ballot boxes appears to have been inaccurate.

On Nov. 11, an Avis car rental employee at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport found two boxes in a returned Dodge Caravan. One of the boxes, labeled “provisional ballots,” not only contained election supplies, but also blank provisional ballots, according to a Broward County Sheriff’s Office incident report obtained by The Epoch Times.

A similar box was also found in an elementary school in Miramar on Nov. 8, and another one at a community center in Tamarac on Nov. 10.

The Avis employee found the box around 2 p.m., although the car was returned at noon the day before, according to the rental record attached to the incident report.

The employee informed Broward County Sheriff’s deputies at the airport, according to Florida GOP Committeeman Richard DeNapoli. The deputies “seemed uninterested” and so the employee called DeNapoli, who relayed the information to independent journalist Laura Loomer.

“He looked [my number] up on the [Republican] party website after he said he couldn’t get attention from sheriff’s personnel at the airport,” DeNapoli told The Epoch Times via Twitter.

About the same time the box was found, customers started to complain online that the departure area of the airport was blocked. At around 8 p.m., the airport announced on Twitter that inbound roads to the airport have been cut off “due to police activity.” Some 20 minutes later, the sheriff’s office stated on Twitter that the airport had been put on lockdown because of a “suspicious package” near Terminal 4.

At around 9:30, several deputies arrived and collected the ballot box and other items found in the car, which was near Terminal 1 and ignored by local media that instead covered the bomb scare at Terminal 4. At about the same time, the sheriff’s office stated on Twitter that the package has been determined “safe” and an “all-clear” was issued.

Joy Oglesby, the sheriff’s public information officer, said the box was a separate incident from the suspicious package, which was determined to be “two pieces of luggage and a purse.”

Oglesby told The Epoch Times via email that the office was alerted to the suspicious package at 6:30 p.m. As to why the first sign something was being done about the package came more than an hour later, she said that “investigating a suspicious package takes considerable time and resources such as our specialized bomb squad.”

The Avis car was rented by Noah Holliman under the Broward County Election Supervisor, the rental record shows. There appears to be an online footprint of only one such man living in the general area, a union employee whose wife, Tiffany, works at the Broward County Water and Wastewater Services. On his Facebook page, Noah Holliman is posing with Andrew Gillum, a progressive Democratic mayor of Tallahassee, Florida, and gubernatorial candidate in the election. Gillum trails his Republican opponent, Ron DeSantis, by fewer than 34,000 votes, with recount results pending.

Snipes to Retire

Snipes has recently told media she doesn’t intend to run for reelection in 2020. She’s been reported to have run afoul of election laws at least a dozen times over her 15 years in office.

On Nov. 11, Scott filed a lawsuit, alleging that Snipes failed to report all early voting and vote-by-mail results within 30 minutes after the polls closed. The lawsuit further alleged Snipes didn’t follow the law to update election results every 45 minutes and also failed to give Scott’s campaign consistent counts of ballots received and the number of ballots remaining to be counted. In addition, Snipes mixed 183 valid provisional ballots with 22 invalid ones, submitting all of them as valid.

The suit demanded law enforcement impound election devices and ballots “until such time as any recounts, election contests, or litigation … are complete.”

Scott dropped the demand on Nov. 12 in lieu of an agreement that three Broward County sheriff deputies who don’t answer to Snipes will monitor cameras in the elections office and the storage of USB drives with the election results.

Snipes’s office and Noah Holliman didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Update: The report was updated with information from a Broward County Sheriff’s Office incident report and information about Noah and Tiffany Holliman.

From The Epoch Times

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