CNN likely regrets giving a platform to the Florida elections official under fire for ballot recounts after her interview just seemed to make things worse.
Chris Cuomo’s interview of Broward County’s embattled supervisor of elections, Brenda Snipes, on Tuesday may have accomplished little else than to confirm the chaos surrounding the recounting of ballots in the state’s top races.
Snipes was confident her office would meet the Thursday deadline for the recount, and contended that last week’s elections ran “very smoothly,” but were also “one of the most highly participated midterm elections, probably that we’ve had in twenty years or more.”
But with Broward County and neighboring Palm Beach County under fire – and facing lawsuits by Republican Gov. Rick Scott who ran against Democrat Sen. Bill Nelson for the state’s Senate seat – questions have still been left unanswered.
Snipes has repeatedly dodged appeals to divulge the number of outstanding votes, despite Scott’s demands, an order by a judge last week and the state’s law. Her response to Cuomo’s questions about why she’s ignoring the law led Snipes on a rabbit trail in response.
“But you have rules that you’re supposed to abide by and transparency that is very important. You refused to give the Scott campaign the information they wanted. It had to go to court. The judge said you had to turn it over, you didn’t turn it over by the deadline that was given,” Cuomo said. “That is cast as a partisan spat, that you’re doing that because you’re a Democrat. How do you respond to that?”
The Democratic election official denied that she was partisan after telling about someone who visited her office and thought she was a Republican. But she then declared that “I have been a Democrat all my life. In this position, I have been very focused on party, because I want to treat all of the voters in Broward county the same.”
She also insisted that she had no “reason to hold anything back,” even though she refused to give Scott’s team the requested documentation, claiming she didn’t want to give out information that was “incorrect or incomplete at that time.”
After talking about taking visitors on tours of the elections warehouse and claiming her office is “obviously” doing a good job because of the high turnout of votes in the county, Cuomo pressed back.
“Well, if it were that obvious, Rick Scott wouldn’t have had to go to court, with all due respect, right? He had to go to court to get this tour, that you say you’re giving to everybody for no reason. You wouldn’t give it to him and his people. He had to go to court to get it. Fair criticism?” he asked.
Snipes provided another confusing response and eventually insisted that the vote totals were given as requested.
“We don’t select who we give our information to,” she told Cuomo. “We give the information to those persons who have requested it and I believe the public records request says ‘in a timely manner,’ and we attempt to do that. And we try to balance everything. We’re finishing up one of the biggest elections — as I mentioned earlier — for the midterm, so we’re trying to get everything complete. And as far as I know, we had a team working on that.”
“And I’m pretty sure that they got the information out,” Snipes added.
Cuomo attempted to give Snipes a chance to respond to critics complaining about provisional ballots that have created some confusion in the tallies, with rejected provisional ballots reportedly being added back in to a batch of valid ones. Snipes disappointed again with her response, appearing to say the ballots were counted but then said they were not.
“As I said before, an election is a huge operation,” she replied. “And there were 25 ballots in question, not 21. And those 25 ballots had not been counted as of today. But now those ballots, as I understand it, came from valid Broward voters.”
” If the ballot doesn’t meet the standard, that’s one thing. But if the ballots have been determined to come from actual registered voters who met all the criteria of being a registered voter and operated as a registered voter, those votes should be counted,” Snipes said, explaining that the ballots in question are reviewed by the canvassing board made up of herself and two county judges.
Cuomo pressed on the questionable ballots allegedly being put with a batch of valid ones then removed again “because they were not supposed to be counted with the other ones?”
“They were — they were never counted. Those ballots had been separated. They had been isolated. They have not been counted to date,” she replied to a seemingly confused Cuomo.
The CNN anchor wrapped up the interview by asking Snipes directly if she might resign.
“If the pressure stays on you, after this race, are you really thinking of resigning after the recount is over?” he asked.
But Snipes, again, dodged the question and offered a safe response.
“As I told one of the reporters today, I’m thinking about many things. I have not made any decisions,” she told Cuomo. “Whatever I do, I will contemplate it very carefully and make what I think is the correct decision for me.”