As a Florida board certified local government attorney, I spend every working day defending and enforcing Florida’s Government in the Sunshine Act and Public Records Act, the rights to which are enshrined in Florida’s Constitution.
What is happening in Broward County is entirely outrageous. Gov. Rick Scott is already addressing Broward SoE Brenda Snipes‘ willful violations of the Public Records Act. But look at this quote from today’s Miami Herald about today’s meeting of the Broward County Canvassing Board:
The door to the [Broward Supervisor of Elections] office, where a canvassing board meeting to review the last 250 provisional ballots was scheduled to begin at 1 pm, was guarded by a line of Lauderhill police. Initially, only attorneys were allowed in and press and protesters were kept outside. Reporters have since been granted access to the county’s canvassing board, which pores over unresolved ballots and send official vote tallies to the state.
This article highlights a shocking violation of Florida’s Government in the Sunshine Act (also known as the Open Meetings Act). County canvassing boards are subject to the Act. Attorneys and reporters have no special privilege over others to attend public meetings in Florida. When a body subject to the Act, like the Broward County Canvassing Board, should reasonably anticipate that attendance at a public meeting will exceed the capacity of the meeting facility, Florida law requires that the meeting be moved to a venue with sufficient capacity to accomodate the attendees.
Broward SoE Snipes and the Broward County Canvassing Board (of which she is a member) have refused to do this, and as a result, innumerable concerned citizens are being denied their constitutional rights, barred at the door by law enforcement as directed by Supervisor of Elections Snipes.
The Broward County Canvassing Board will have many more meetings throughout Florida’s machine and manual recount processes. Florida law requires that they immediately move their meetings to a larger venue with sufficient capacity to accommodate the public interested in exercising their constitutional rights. If they refuse to do so, suit should be filed to force them to immediately comply with the Florida Constitution.
The statewide media, ordinarily such vociferous advocates for Florida’s Government in the Sunshine Act and Public Records Act, have been shockingly sanguine about the matter. It apparently falls to the people to do something about it.
Wade Vose is board certified by the Florida Bar in City, County and Local Government Law, and Managing Partner of Vose Law Firm LLP in Winter Park. He and his firm serve as City Attorney to cities throughout the State of Florida. The views expressed are his own, and do not express the views of his firm or his clients.