At a ceremony surrounded by immediate family and virtual companions, Joevahn “Joe” Scott was sworn in as Broward County’s new supervisor of elections on Jan. 5.
The Democrat replaced Republican incumbent Peter Antonacci, a 2018 appointee placed in office by former governor Rick Scott, now a state senator.
“What drove me to throw my hat in the ring is my being passionate about this and making sure we had someone with the right professional experience,” said the new supervisor. “This feels like a calling. There is a feeling of satisfaction that comes with this work that you can’t get in the business world.”
Scott’s upbringing inspired his sense of obligation to community and country. With his father – now a retired Army sergeant major – in the military, most of his childhood was spent immersed in different cultures as the family traveled across the world. His mother on the other hand embraced the responsibility of being an educator and went on to teach in Broward County schools until her retirement.
Following in the footsteps of his father, Scott graduated from West Point and served as a military officer for five years overseas after studying computer science.
Scott believes his degree, military background, business skills and leadership experience will help him restore the election and voting process in the county, despite the many challenges his predecessors faced while occupying the role.
Florida’s reputation for election faux pas has repeatedly put past Broward supervisors in the hot seat.
The villainized role of Broward County supervisor of elections resulted from a history of scandal and mistrust between government officials, county residents and the supervisor of elections office.
Antonacci, who had no interest in keeping the role beyond the appointed term, replaced Brenda Snipes. Snipes submitted a letter of resignation following the November 2018 elections after Rick Scott accused her of malfeasance, only to be removed from office before the resignation took effect. The former governor’s claim was that Snipes misplaced more than 2,000 ballots, missed state deadlines to file results and mixed in invalid ballots with valid ones.
A lawsuit filed by Tim Canova, former candidate in district 23’s race, revealed that ballots were destroyed in 2016 before the recommended time frame of 22 months under Snipes’ leadership.
Snipes herself was appointed by then Gov. Jeb Bush in 2003 to replace Miriam Oliphant, who had been accused of spending nearly $1 million over budget and storing uncounted votes in a warehouse.
Jane Carroll, who held the position during Florida’s infamous presidential race recount in 2000, faced allegations from George W. Bush’s aides stating that Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties swayed votes in Al Gore’s favor during manual recounts.
The very scandals and claims of voter fraud that one would normally run from is what drew Scott to politics in 2016. The desire to understand the impact of elections on a local and national scale pushed him into the arms of the Broward chapter of the New Leaders Council to nurture his desire to serve the community through the lens of politics.
Now taking the reins, Scott intends to rebuild trust through facility tours that promote transparency and other tactics to increase communication between voters and his office.
“We’ve entered an era where the integrity and strength of elections officials is stronger than ever,” he explained. “I understand that this role requires stepping up in professionalism and making sure things run smoothly using transparency and accountability.”
Scott plans to uphold the legacy of his grandmother, Carrie Davis, who was the first Black woman to vote in Alabama’s Wilcox County. He will push for voter participation through increasing voting accessibility for the disabled, advocating for vote by mail and improved technology to protect polling places from having their voting machines hacked.
Several initiatives are set to take place under his guidance. Drop boxes for mail-in ballots will increase to 22 locations in total and electronic submissions for petitions will be welcomed. An “Adopt a Precinct” program allows nonpartisan 501(c)(3)s to use volunteers to run precincts during elections while the funding that would have been used to staff those precincts would be donated to the nonprofit.
The fate of Broward County’s elections now rests on Scott’s shoulders.