Broward Co. Elections Chief Admits She Has Seen Fraud
Witness in Florida voting integrity suit defends efforts but says it's not uncommon for non-citizens to be registered
The top elections official in Florida’s Broward County defended her office Monday against allegations that she failed to keep voter rolls up to date but admitted that she has seen voter fraud.
ABC Local 10 reported that Brenda C. Snipes testified in the federal nonjury trial that her office removes ineligible voters from the voter registration list when authorities learn about them.
“Sure, you’re going to have mistakes,” Snipes testified. “The worst thing in the world would be if you don’t take immediate action to correct it.”
Snipes testified as the plaintiff, the American Civil Rights Union, rested its case in U.S. District Court in Miami. The defense is expected to close its case Thursday after sending expert witnesses to the stand.
The group, represented by the Public Interest Legal Foundation, argues that the county is not taking sufficient steps to make sure that the voter rolls are accurate. The plaintiffs have pointed to statistics indicating that the share of registered voters exceeds 100 percent of eligible voters who live there. Last week, lawyers for the plaintiff introduced evidence that thousands of people older than 100 — including some as old as 130 — remain on the rolls long after they likely have died.
"There are no perfect elections. You're dealing with a ton of paper," Snipes testified. "There is no way to have 100 percent no-mistake effort by any supervisor at any point in time in this state."
Logan Churchwell, a spokesman for the Public Interest Legal Foundation, said it is difficult to predict how the judge might rule.
"It's really hard to tell at this point," he told LifeZette. "We have two very different narratives at work."
Churchwell highlighted two key admissions from Snipes on the stand. The first, he said, is that she testified that it is not uncommon for noncitizens to contact her office and ask that their names be removed from the rolls because they have been improperly registered. Some noncitizens have cast ballots in previous elections, she said.
Churchwell's group and other voting integrity organizations have pointed to that phenomenon in other states as an indication of vulnerabilities that make fraud possible.
The other admission by Snipes is that she has seen cases of fraud, including most recently a case of double voting.
The trial has the potential to set a precedent defining the legal requirement that voter registration officials take "reasonable" steps to ensure that the lists are well-maintained. Previous lawsuits that the Public Interest Legal Foundation has filed have been settled out of court. For instance, Churchwell said, North Carolina's Wake County agreed to become more aggressive in removing names of voters who have moved or died. Rather than cross-reference the voter registration list with the post office's change-of-address database twice a year, officials agreed to do it every quarter.
Rather that negotiating a similar settlement, however, Broward County and other organizations that intervened in the suit chose to fight. Churchwell put the blame for that on left-wing groups Demos, the State Employees International Union, and George Soros' Open Society Foundations.
"Never before has there been a lawsuit like this that went to trial," he said. "There are well-financed interests on the other side that want to fight."
During the trial, former Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler testified that he reviewed questions posed to the county by the legal foundation and found elections officials had assumed a "defensive crouch."
In addition, Center for Immigration Studies researcher Steven Camarota testified about the improbability of the number of registered voters in the county exceeding the Census Bureau's estimate of the number of voting-age adult residents.
The plaintiffs have faulted Broward County officials for not using obituaries even as a starting point to search for dead voters; for not using Social Security death records; and for not having a system to verify citizenship status of newly registered voters.
"Clarity on this will be welcome," he said.