Elections are the foundation of our democracy, and without faith in the process, our American system of government and way of life are at stake.
This year, Florida has not one, not two, but three statewide recounts in the wake of last week’s elections.
For me personally, as the Republican nominee for commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services, election night represented the culmination of 18 months of travel and countless long weeks away from my wife and daughter.
While the commissioner of agriculture gets less attention than U.S. Senate or governor, the position greatly impacts all Floridians. The commissioner sits on the Florida Cabinet with the governor, making important decisions regarding our environment, veterans and fundamental rights.
The department oversees agriculture, Florida’s second largest industry, as well as water policy, consumer protections and Second Amendment rights. It’s a crucial post for our
economic security and constitutional liberties.
Last Tuesday night Floridians went to bed thinking the elections were over -- that Rick Scott won the Senate race, Ron DeSantis won the governor’s race and that I won the agriculture commissioner race.
But voters woke up on Wednesday to a new reality: tens of thousands of votes from Broward and Palm Beach counties greatly shrunk the margin of victory in each of these races -- counties with a reputation of incompetence and a history of breaking the law.
Voters around the state -- from both parties -- are rightfully angered at Broward County Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes for failing to provide clear, unambiguous answers to some very simple questions, including the key question of how many votes remained to be counted on Tuesday night; and Wednesday night; and Thursday night?
If the law wasn’t followed, why not? And if it was followed, then where did 80,000 extra votes come from?
News reports have done an excellent job of uncovering and chronicling the ongoing troubles of Snipes’ office -- not reporting data to the state in a timely fashion, not beginning the recount on time, co-mingling improperly handled ballots with legitimate votes, and the list goes on.
Our campaign filed suit against the Broward County Supervisor of Elections because Snipes owes all Floridians a detailed and transparent accounting of how this disaster occurred.
The lack of transparency or competence in the Broward supervisor’s handling of this election is astounding. We want to ensure every legal vote is counted and that we have a forensic reconstruction of when ballots were cast and how, in order to protect the integrity of Florida’s electoral process from those seeking to erode our democracy.
The voters and the legitimacy of our elections must be protected and a repeat of 2018 cannot happen in the 2020 presidential election.
As an eight-year veteran of the Florida Legislature, I know we have consistently advocated for good government and we won’t stop now. So much is at stake. This is about the future of Florida voters. This is about the future of democracy. We can’t afford to get this wrong. That’s why we’ll fight to get it right.
Matt Caldwell is a North Fort Myers Republican and a candidate for Florida Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services.