FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami/AP) – A new Broward Supervisor of Elections was sworn in Thursday.
Governor Rick Scott’s former general counsel Peter Antonacci, who has no elections experience, was sworn in to replace suspended Supervisor of Elections Dr. Brenda Snipes. He said he plans to fulfill his mission.
“That great mission is to see to it that every eligible voter is registered to vote and every vote counts,” said Antonacci, who will serve out the remaining two years of Snipes’ term.
Last month Gov. Scott suspended Snipes even though she had already agreed to step down from her post in early January.
In his executive order, Scott said he was suspending Snipes due to misfeasance, incompetence, and neglect of duty. His order cited problems during the recount, including reports of more than 2,000 ballots being misplaced. She also came under fire in 2017 after she destroyed year-old ballots in violation of the law. Shortly after the recount started, Scott himself suggested possible fraud but never offered any concrete examples.
Snipes has since rescinded that resignation and plans to “fight this to the very end.”
During the recount, Snipes admitted there were missteps.
“There have been issues that did not go the way we wanted it,” she said last month. “You can call it a mistake or whatever you want.”
Snipes has been the top elections official in the south Florida county since 2003 when then-Gov. Jeb Bush appointed her. She came under withering criticism for her handling of this year’s elections, as well as its legally required recount in close races for governor and U.S. Senate. She had been elected three times and her current term was not scheduled to end until 2020.
Antonacci is a Republican and he’s taking the job in a heavily Democratic county. State Senator Perry Thurston told CBS 4 News on Thursday that he thinks the Governor’s motivation to suspend Snipes, when she offered to resign in early January, is personal. Thurston also said there’s concern over the appointment of a person who lives outside Broward County to a position with such authority over how elections are run.
“There are a number of Republicans in Broward County. Out of all 2 million people we couldn’t find one Broward County resident to take over that office?” Thurston wondered. “That would suggest to me that maybe the person that he was pointing, he has some kind of agenda.”
Antonacci said he plans to move to Broward and he vowed that he will approach the job with a non partisan mindset.
“It’s not a political job and I’ve never approached any of the assignments I’ve had with a political bent in mind. These are jobs that you are required to dispatch the duty of objectivity. I’ll stand on my record,” he said.
Antonacci said he’s in the process of vetting the employees of the elections office and preparing a report on what went wrong in last month’s elections and what can be done to fix it. He also said he has no design on the job following his two year stint finishing Snipes’ term.
“I’m care taking and I care taking until the people of Broward County speak in their own voice to elect the person they want to run this office in 2020,” Antonacci.
But Thursday’s swearing in is not the end of this story. Earlier this week, Broward County Commissioners said they would look into what they could do to challenge Snipes’ suspension. Also, Thurston said State Senators will have to review Governor Scott’s suspension order.
CBS4 News tried to get a comment from Dr. Snipes but we could not reach her. We asked her attorney if Snipes intended to file a lawsuit and we were told that nothing has been filed at this time.
(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)