In 2014, the Broward Supervisor of Elections (SOE) office was again the epicenter of controversy and ineptitude during the election cycle. The elections office was a model of inefficiency in how ballots were decimated, candidate qualifying was handled and elections were conducted. The current SOE, Dr. Brenda Snipes has failed to work effectively with the County Commission regarding her budget and antiquated office space. Dr. Snipes has said the right things publicly, but every election cycle, Broward County gets it horribly wrong when compared to the rest of the state.
On Wednesday, Broward Democratic Party Chairman Mitch Ceasar announced he will pass on next year’s much talked about vacant County Commission election in District 1. Former State Senate Minority Leader Nan Rich is the front-runner in the District 1 race. As a partisan leader who has seen his fair share of election errors at the SOE level since becoming party chair in 1996, Ceasar could be the person the Supervisor’s office would need to get working properly again.
No question exists that Ceasar’s tenure as party chair has been controversial. Large elements of Broward County’s political community have rejected him and worked around the local party for years. As I have written previously on many occasions, Broward County despite being the most “Democratic” large county in the southeastern United States is far less “progressive” in its local party politics than many other counties in the state. Because Broward Democrats have been responsible for governing the county since the 1980’s, large elements of the party locally have become cozy with big businesses and typically- Republican aligned special interests.
Dr. Snipes’ office, who has made voting and access to information less accessible than in any other major urban Florida county has largely been able to survive thanks to the unwillingness of the Democratic Party establishment to challenge her. This is direct bi-product of Broward’s incestuous politics where a greater value is placed upon factional politics and taking sides in Democratic primaries then working hard to help Democrats win statewide. Many Broward Democrats have an ignorant view of the politics in the rest of the state born out of isolation and the emphasis on localized primaries in areas where partisan competition does not exist.
Broward’s voter turnout continues to be among the lowest in the state partly because Dr. Snipes office fails to engage in the types of voter education programs other county supervisors do. Some Broward progressive activists theorize that Dr. Snipes, a Democrat who was appointed by Jeb Bush in 2003 and reelected three times since, actually seeks to suppress the vote in the most Democratic urban county south of Washington DC. Whether this is the case or not, Dr. Snipes office again botched this past cycle in multiple ways.
Snipes is considering running for yet another term in 2016. Ceasar would be the type of advocate for increased voter participation and accessibility the county badly needs. One thing many of the Chairman’s critics would concede in his favor is his understanding of voter data and numbers in Broward County. In addition, the Ceasar has dealt with the limitations of the SOE’s office and would be able to hit the ground running, reforming the office where needed.
While Ceasar hasn’t been considering the SOE office, I would hope he would give it a long thought in the next few months. He could make all the difference in that office.