Broward Elections "Mailer Scare" Marks Almost A Year Since Major Recount

Nov 24, 2019

Around this time last year, the political sphere zeroed in on Broward County, which was dealing with a crucial recount in a couple of statewide races. The office has recently dealt with another blunder, according to the South Florida Sun Sentinel. More than 50,000 voters received a “final notice” mailer that threatened to designate them inactive voters. 

The county’s elections supervisor Peter Antonacci later apologized for the mailer and said no one’s status will change.

On the South Florida Roundup, host Tom Hudson spoke with WLRN’s Broward County reporter Caitie Switalski and the Sun Sentinel’s Larry Barszewski about the state of elections in Broward.

Here's an excerpt of their conversation:

TOM HUDSON: This latest incident just added to the long list of challenges that Broward County Elections have had through the years — most notably a year ago with the recount. That led, of course, to Brenda Snipes' departure. She had been the elections supervisor. Peter Antonacci then came in, appointed by former Gov. Rick Scott. How does this latest incident rank with the challenges that the elections office in Broward has been wrestling with?

CAITIE SWITALSKI: I've been covering the elections office in Broward now for a little over two years. And just in that amount of time, I've seen a lot of change.

If we're looking at, from the recount that happened last November to right now, this shift in leadership has really looked very different from the complacency that Broward was used to. And so I don't think that this shift in leadership has really changed, at least the voters that I talked to, their confidence in the vote-by-mail system. I think a lot of Broward County residents are still not very confident that if you mail in a ballot, it's going to get counted. So that has really stayed with people.

But also, Broward is a deeply blue county. And now we have a Republican with a business and legal background coming in to take over. We had one person in there for more than 15 years.

HUDSON: This final notice mistake and the apology that has come since then comes in this air of voter disenfranchisement, of concerns about vote-by-mail, of concerns about voting registration, and around even the implementation of Amendment 4 — as we're building toward a big election, the 2020 cycle. How is Broward County thinking about these even confidence issues?

SWITALSKI: I think voters are definitely moving away from wanting to vote by mail. I think we're going to see a lot more people try to early vote or vote on site. But I also think the office took off some bites with smaller elections, with the change in leadership, to make sure that things were running smoothly. There was an election in Coral Springs. So they've had a tiny chance to build up to this and work toward organizing themselves.

HUDSON: Larry, how about that kind of spring training for the elections office with these municipal elections before the "Super Bowl of 2020?"

LARRY BARSZEWSKI: They're taking any any practice they can get up before the big one. And they know it's going to be a big deal. To prevent problems from happening, they're encouraging voters to go to the supervisor's website and check your voter status to make sure everything is correct.

One good part is that it's very easy to get back from an inactive to active voter. All you have to do is go and vote, call the office or request the vote-by-mail ballot. Any interaction with the office will take you out of that inactive status and put you in back as an active voter.

 This interview has been lightly edited for brevity and clarity.