Florida circuit court Judge Raag Singhal ruled the Broward County Supervisor of Elections Office violated state and federal law Friday, after the office destroyed ballots from a 2016 House race for Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s seat.
The elections office may also be on the hook for $200,000 in attorneys fees for Tim Canova, who brought a lawsuit against them after he lost to Wasserman Schultz in 2016, the Sun Sentinel reported. Canova lost by a final tally of 28,809 to 21,907 in a Democratic primary.
Canova requested a closer look at the paper ballots from the race to check for anomalies in March 2017, but Elections Supervisor Brenda Snipes did not respond to his requests so he took her to court, according to the Sun Sentinel. Snipes had signed off on the destruction of the ballots in September 2017.
Snipes made a “mistake,” she said during testimony in court and claimed the boxes were mislabeled. She maintained the destruction of the ballots was entirely unintentional.
“When I sign, I sign folders filled with information,” Snipes said in her testimony, according to the Sun Sentinel.
“I trust my staff. They have the responsibility of giving me information that’s correct.”
Singhal ruled Snipes had wrongly destroyed public records because her office is required to maintain documents from the election for 22 months after it’s conclusion. Snipes destroyed the ballots after only one year.
Snipes’ attorney, Burnadette Norris-Weeks, also admitted her client made a mistake but said the ballots were scanned and preserved before being disposed of.
“It was a mistake [destroying the original ballots], but the ballots were preserved,” Norris-Weeks told the Sun Sentinel.
“They were scanned shortly after the election.”
Canova claimed he contacted the FBI twice to complain, but didn’t receive a response.
The ruling will allow for Canova to have his attorney fees reimbursed by the elections office, but he still wants Snipes fired for her role in the alleged fraud.
“I think dismissal is an appropriate remedy,” Canova told the Sun Sentinel.