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Meet The Man Who Will Be Broward County's New Supervisor Of Elections

Joe Scott, Supervisor-elect of the Broward County Elections Office.
Courtesy of Joe Scott's campaign Facebook page
Joe Scott, Supervisor-elect of the Broward County Elections Office.

Democrat Joe Scott made it through his own recount during the August primary election, to win big on Nov. 3. He inherits leadership of an elections office with a checkered record for citizen trust.

Broward County has a new supervisor-elect to oversee elections. That hasn't happened since Miriam Oliphant led the office in 2001.

Incoming Supervisor-elect Joe Scott will be the first elected newcomer in 20 years to take over Broward's elections office when he gets sworn in Jan. 5.

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Decades of turbulent history precedes Scott's election:

Former Supervisor Brenda Snipes, a Democrat, was originally appointed to replace Oliphant — also a Democrat — after she was removed from office for her handling of the 2002 primary election.

Snipes was then re-elected several times, however she herself was later removed from the office after issues during the 2018 midterm elections — and the high-profile recounts that followed.

Republican Peter Antonacci was appointed to take over the job after Snipes, and to make sure the 2020 presidential election ran smoothly. Antonacci succeeded in that goal but he didn't want the job long term.

After all of that controversy, in comes Scott.

He admitted, after Oliphant's tenure, he understands the perception some people will have of him coming into this role. Yet he leans on his military experience and a work background in cyber security as he prepares for this role.

"Really, the last person who was in the position that I'm in, was Miriam Oliphant — and that didn't go well. So, that is sort of the frame of reference that a lot of people are coming into this with as far as trying to assess me," Scott said. "But hopefully, I think for the most part, people see that I come from a pretty different background ... and that should make a big difference."

WLRN spoke with Scott about his first priorities as supervisor, his longterm goals, and why he wanted the job in the first place.

Below is our conversation, edited for clarity and length.

WLRN: Your immediate predecessor, Peter Antonacci, received a lot of praise for how smoothly the election went this year. Is there anything that he did that you were impressed by and you would want to continue?

SCOTT: I believe he did make some positive changes as far as the process. Basically, there were a lot of organizational changes that made it easy to conduct a recount quickly. And that's the thing that I really appreciate. And I think that those new systems he put in place could possibly be even improved on further.

Everything didn't go perfectly, but it did go far smoother than 2018, to say the least. You know, we had the county wide judicial recount, but it didn't have nearly as much scrutiny as the 2018 recounts that involved a U.S. Senate seat and the governor's race.

Some of what happened in 2018, that was a partisan aspect to it, sort of almost like a trial run for what we're seeing happening now, where there was this big push to stop counting the votes. That kind of thing was happening here in Broward County. And it was very partisan in nature.

The pandemic this year has meant that a larger volume of voters voted using vote by mail. What do you have to do differently in your office to accommodate that change in the way people vote?

It's a big, big change. What ended up happening is that there was a much bigger shift to voting earlier, which is a change that needed to happen. And I believe that this is a change that will persist after COVID-19 goes away. So once we get past COVID-19, I think people's habits have changed. People are, you know, now accustomed to voting by mail. People are accustomed to going to early voting sites and that will continue. That's my belief.

There's a requirement that the ballots are back to the supervisor by 7 p.m. on election night. And we need to make sure that we have a better system in place to make sure that we're getting all the ballots from the post office.

Additionally, we have to improve how we retrieve ballots that are dropped off. We had one drive-through in Broward County. We need to expand that and have it at all the voting sites, but it's a huge challenge and the reason we didn't do it is because of the climate here in South Florida and the humidity.

So if those ballots are outside for too long and the humidity gets to them, then that causes problems in the counting process. So we just need to look at maybe getting some kind of trucks or vans or something that will allow us to set up an outdoor drive through a site that is also climate controlled and dry.

If there's a damaged ballot, it has to go before the canvassing board and it has to be reproduced or has to be copied in front of the canvassing board so that you actually have a ballot that is dry and flat and straight that can go through the tabulators, because that's the way that we keep our official records.

What are some of the things that you want to accomplish, if you have any long term goals you really want to hit for yourself while you're in this role?

I would love to see us just overall improve accessibility to the voting system. So, to go beyond simply making sure that our polling places are ADA compliant, but making sure that our polling places are welcoming to people who have disabilities, whether you have some kind of a physical limitation, whether you have a visual limitation, an audio, hearing limitation, we want to make sure that we are doing everything that we can to make the vote accessible to all citizens.

Caitie Muñoz, formerly Switalski, leads the WLRN Newsroom as Director of Daily News & Original Live Programming. Previously she reported on news and stories concerning quality of life in Broward County and its municipalities for WLRN News.
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