TALLAHASSEE, FL — Weeks after securing his Senate election victory in a protracted ballot recount process, outgoing Florida Gov. Rick Scott issued an order late Friday suspending embattled Broward County Supvisor of Elections Brenda C. Snipes, who had already turned in her resignation. The governor cited “misfeasance, incompetence and neglect of duty” for his action.
The governor appointed Peter Antonacci to replace Snipes, who drew wide criticism in the days following Florida’s Nov. 6 election by President Trump and others who referred to “the Broward effect” in creating uncertainty over the election results, but particularly with respect to Scott’s race against long-time Florida Democrat Sen. Bill Nelson. The incumbent lost to Scott by a slim margin when the more than 8 million votes were recounted first by machine and then by hand.
“Every eligible voter in Florida deserves their vote to be counted and should have confidence in Florida’s elections process,” Scott said in announcing the suspension late Friday afternoon. “After a series of inexcusable actions, it’s clear that there needs to be an immediate change in Broward County and taxpayers should no longer be burdened by paying a salary for a supervisor of elections who has already announced resignation.”
Snipes resignation was to take effect on Jan. 4. “I know that Pete will be solely focused on running free and fair elections, will not be running for election and will bring order and integrity back to this office,” said the governor.
Antonacci serves as the president and CEO of Enterprise Florida. Prior to that, he served as executive director of the South Florida Water Management District and as general counsel for the governor. He has also served as state attorney in Palm Beach County and as a governing board member of the Northwest Florida Water Management District, a member of the Florida Ethics Commission, statewide prosecutor of Florida and deputy Florida attorney general.
“I know that Pete will be solely focused on running free and fair elections, will not be running for election and will bring order and integrity back to this office,” Scott said of Antonacci, who has also served on multiple judicial nominating commissions.
In her resignation letter to Scott, Snipes said she was ready to go.
“Although I have enjoyed this work tremendously over these many election cycles, both large and small, I am ready to pass the torch,” Snipes said in the letter. “It has been my passion and honor to serve as the supervisor for Broward County voters.”
The retired elementary school principal has lived in the South Florida county since 1964, when she and her husband traded Alabama’s Heart of Dixie for Florida’s endless palm trees and coastline. She had enjoyed a 15-year run as elections supervisor.
During her 2016 re-election bid, Snipes was photographed waving to supporters and riding atop an open convertible.
But her fortunes changed in the days since the Nov. 6 election as Snipes became the focus of criticism for her handling of the election returns. Broward reported thousands of additional votes after Election Day, leading to persistent protests outside Snipes’ Lauderhill, Florida offices and calls for her to step down or be fired.
Snipes later acknowledged that her office misplaced more than 2,000 ballots during the recount.
“They got intermingled with the other ballots when we were doing the recount,” Snipes told reporters.
Eerily reminiscent of the hanging chad debacle of the Bush-Gore era, dozens of peaceful protesters carrying signs that read “Lock her up,” “Don’t Steal My Election” and “Fake Votes”sprang up outside her offices while Snipes and her staff painstakingly went over ballots inside.
“All of a sudden they’re finding votes out of nowhere,” the president told a group of reporters outside the White House prior to the start of Florida’s recount. “There’s bad things that have gone on in Broward County — really bad things.”
While there was no hard evidence to support the president’s theory, Snipes played into the narrative of incompetence when her staff worked for days on the machine recount of the Florida Senate race, governor’s race and commissioner of agriculture contest only to submit the results two minutes too late to be counted.
“It has been my passion and honor to serve as the supervisor of elections for Broward County voters,” Snipes said in her resignation letter. “When I was appointed to this position on Nov. 20, 2003, my initial commitment was to serve out the remaining term of office and pass the torch to the person who would be elected in the next election cycle. Needless to say, that was almost 15 years ago.”
Antonacci will serve the remainder of Snipes’ term until a replacement is chosen by voters in November 2020.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Dr. Brenda Snipes, Broward County Supervisor of Elections, makes a statement during a canvassing board meeting. (Photo by Joe Skipper/Getty Images).