Brenda Snipes, Broward County’s Embattled Elections Chief, to Resign

MIAMI — Brenda C. Snipes, the elections supervisor of Broward County, Fla., turned in a letter of resignation on Sunday, hours after the conclusion of a vote recount that exposed a series of failures in her office, including a poorly designed ballot that may have contributed to a weak showing by the defeated Senate incumbent, Bill Nelson.

Dr. Snipes, an elected Democrat who was the subject of searing criticism during the recount, submitted her resignation to the state government in Tallahassee, effective Jan. 4.

“It has been my passion and honor to serve as the Supervisor of Elections for Broward County voters,” she said in a letter to Gov. Rick Scott. “Although I have enjoyed this work tremendously over these many election cycles, both large and small, I am ready to pass the torch.”

Dr. Snipes becomes the first political figure to fall in the wake of the tumultuous recount, which revealed systemic flaws and areas vulnerable to human error in Florida’s election system, 18 years after the infamous presidential recount of 2000.

Mr. Scott, who is now the state’s Republican senator-elect, last week had asked the state’s Department of Law Enforcement to investigate potential wrongdoing in Dr. Snipes’s office.

Evelyn Pérez-Verdía, a former spokeswoman for the county elections office who has been in touch with Dr. Snipes’s close advisers, said she had discussed her plans with her staff.

“All I’m hoping for is that we get a nonpartisan person there,” Ms. Pérez-Verdía said. “Someone that is loyal to the people and the voters, versus to a political party.”

Dr. Snipes, 75, did not immediately comment on her plans. Her intended departure was first reported by The Sun Sentinel of South Florida.

Earlier on Sunday, Dr. Snipes told reporters that it was clear from the problems that occurred during the past week’s recounts that elections procedures needed to be updated.

“There are some things that need to be tweaked on all sides, in terms of the processes that make up elections,” she said.

Asked if she was concerned that Ron DeSantis, the Republican governor-elect, might try to remove her from office, Dr. Snipes said no.

“I haven’t heard anything about that,” she said. But earlier in the week, she had said that perhaps it would soon be “time to move on and let someone else” take over the job.

It was a week of serious blunders. Dr. Snipes’s office failed to meet the state’s deadline on Thursday to submit results of a machine recount by two minutes, an error that was blamed on unfamiliarity with the state’s website. The delay seemed incomprehensible, given that Broward claimed to have completed the recount hours earlier.

The machine recount was also bungled, when it came up more than 2,000 votes short, which left the canvassing board in the position of having to decide which results to use. Dr. Snipes said the un-recounted ballots were probably misfiled with another stack of ballots.

“The ballots are in the building,” she said on Saturday, adding: “I know that sounds trite. It sounds foolish.”

Her office decided to submit the original tally, in addition to whatever overseas and military ballots had been received since then. The issue was a concern to the political parties, because the machine recount results showed Mr. Scott gaining some 700 votes over his Democratic rival, Mr. Nelson.

Earlier, during the initial counting of votes, Dr. Snipes’s office inadvertently mixed some 20 invalid provisional ballots in a stack of 205 otherwise valid ballots. The canvassing board ultimately accepted all the ballots, saying it would err on the side of allowing them rather than disenfranchising more than 180 valid votes.

Mr. Scott’s campaign sued for access to all the voting records, and a court found that Broward had violated public records law and the state’s Constitution.

Even before being denounced by Mr. Scott, Senator Marco Rubio and President Trump himself, Dr. Snipes’s tenure had been marred by problems, including the unlawful destruction of ballots in a congressional race that should have been kept for review, and the mishandling and misprinting of mailed-in ballots.

Democrats were highly critical of the design of the ballots in Broward County. The Nov. 6 election results showed that some 30,000 Broward voters did not make a choice in the Senate race — a significant undervote attributed to a ballot design that tucked the contest on the bottom left-hand corner of the page. That design was in violation of national guidelines that recommend not listing any race under the voter instructions. It led some Democrats to believe that the design might have cost Mr. Nelson the election.

As a result of the litany of controversies, Dr. Snipes’s exit did not surprise Broward Democrats on Sunday, even some who defended Dr. Snipes in the past but found it increasingly difficult to do so as the midterm election and recount resulted in one embarrassment after another for the county. No one, however, seemed to expect Dr. Snipes to act so quickly.

“Wow, that was fast,” Cynthia Busch, chairwoman of the county Democrats, said after learning of the resignation from a reporter on Sunday night. “People don’t have confidence in her anymore, and if that includes even those of us who have tried to be helpful over the last couple of years as best we can, that in and of itself makes it an untenable situation going into a presidential election.”

Protesters descended on the Broward elections office last week, demanding Dr. Snipes’s ouster. Pro-Trump groups went as far as to post her home address and phone number online.

Even before the midterm, Dr. Snipes told people close to her that she probably would not seek a fifth term in 2020. She was appointed in 2002 by Gov. Jeb Bush, a Republican, after the previous supervisor, Miriam Oliphant, was suspended. Mr. Bush said on Nov. 12 that Dr. Snipes, who won four consecutive elections beginning in 2004, should be removed from office after the recount.

After failing to meet the machine recount deadline on Thursday, Dr. Snipes admitted that things had not gone well.

“I have taken responsibility for every act in this office, good, bad or indifferent,” Dr. Snipes said. “I always hold myself accountable.”

Audra D.S. Burch contributed reporting from Hollywood, Fla., and Nick Madigan from Lauderhill, Fla.

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