Seven Key Characters, 100 Years: The South Florida Elections

South Florida, and particularly Broward and Palm Beach counties, have a remarkably colorful elections history. I played a small walk-on role in this ongoing theater of the absurd when I ran for office in 2016.

At 3:00 pm today, November 15, 2018, the “Second Unofficial Returns” – required if a machine recount is ordered – are due from the county canvassing boards to the State of Florida. It seems like a fitting day to tell everyone a bedtime story – a few highlights of the past 100 years – although it may keep you up at night.

The actors in this dramatic timeline are Brenda, Chad, Easter Lily, Jane, Jeb, Miriam, and Theresa, some of the more colorful characters in our superbly colorful history.

Easter Lily Gates
Easter Lily Gates
Who Remembers Easter Lily?

One hundred years ago, in 1918,Easter Lily” moves to Broward County. (Take a moment to read about her; she sounds like she was pretty badass.)

In 1929 (just nine years after women got the right to vote), Easter Lily Gates becomes the Broward County Supervisor of Elections, a position she holds for an unprecedented 40 years. She begins her career as the Supervisor of Registration, and ends it as Supervisor of Elections; the Florida Legislature changed the title in 1965.

Ms. Gates’s successor, Jane Carroll, serves for 32 years, until 2001.

The 21st Century – “The Unraveling”

In 2000, just a quick ride up the coast in neighboring Palm Beach County, Theresa LePore, a butterfly aficionado, invites Chad, an unwelcome guest, into voters’ homes (or at least their ballot boxes). It’s unclear whether Chad, who’s been hanging around for far too long, is a snowbird who’s overstayed his welcome. Chad’s pulled off a caper and is looking to make a clean break, but it looks like he won’t make it.

Ms. Carroll’s successor, Miriam Oliphant, lasts less than three years. Then-Governor Jeb Bush has Ms. Oliphant escorted right out of her office, after the last straw, which occurred, according to CNN, when (during the 2002 gubernatorial primary), “Several polls opened late, and others closed early. Thousands of votes were not counted until a week after the election.”

In 2003, after escorting Ms. Oliphant from office, then-Governor Jeb Bush appoints Brenda Snipes to head the Broward County Supervisor of Elections office. Remarkably, she’s still there, and she’s now the third-longest-serving Broward SOE.

Today

Today, we await further word regarding what happens next, or if the curtain will finally fall on this tragedy. By the way, if you ask Google, it will tell you that one definition of “tragedy” is “a play dealing with tragic events and having an unhappy ending, especially one concerning the downfall of the main character.”

Indeed. Is someone writing this screenplay?⧉

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