Broward County’s new elections supervisor welcomed an audit of his office and reassured commissioners on Tuesday that he will not make it harder for county residents to vote.
Commissioners have expressed concerns that Peter Antonacci, a Republican, could reduce early voting days, eliminate polling locations and purge voter rolls of eligible voters to reduce turnout in the overwhelmingly Democratic county.
But during a brief appearance in front of the commissioners at their final meeting of the year, the appointee said, “there will be no diminution of service.”
He will however do a state-required review of the rolls in a way that will make the commission proud, he said.
Antonacci’s address to the commission was his first since Gov. Rick Scott suspended former Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes on Nov. 30 and appointed him as her replacement.
Antonacci updated the commissioners on the status of the office, saying there are several issues that must be addressed.
“We’re not getting enough information out to the public, particularly during important times around elections,” he said after speaking to commissioners. “We’ve got vacant positions. [We] should not have vacant positions going into an election—which we’re doing in 12 weeks.”
The elections office is an independent entity that does not report to the commission. But the county controls the office’s annual $19 million budget.
Nan Rich and other commissioners said they appreciated Antonacci's commitment to maintaining current early voting hours and other voter services. But they added that the elections office must improve its practices after its vote counting process drew national scrutiny following the midterm elections. The commission directed County Auditor Bob Melton to conduct an audit of the office's operations.
"This is actually a perfect time for an audit as we change officeholders," Melton said. "This can provide an excellent blueprint for the new supervisor of elections to determine areas that he can concentrate on in making improvements."
The commission had previously asked the county attorney to explore whether the county should challenge Scott’s decision to replace Snipes. Commissioner Steve Geller has noted that Snipes’ suspension only becomes permanent if the state senate votes to remove her. Commissioners deferred action on the matter after the attorney said there are no updates at this time.