JB: How effective were her attempts to marginalize you? Were you viewed as a fringe candidate? And if so, how did that affect the race?
TC: Every time I would appear at a local Democratic Party club or caucus or committee meeting, party leaders had already received calls from Wasserman Schultz's staff warning them not to let me speak -- even though such censorship is contrary to the party's own bylaws. The party helps shield its incumbents from debate, showers them with mainstream media attention and corporate money, and prevents challengers from even introducing themselves. It's been much the same with the leadership of unions and some other liberal and even purportedly progressive groups.
I don't know if I was ever considered a "fringe" candidate, as much as disloyal for not falling in line and supporting the incumbent, especially since she was also the chair of the Democratic National Committee. They kept painting me as the outsider, which only fueled our popularity.
Wasserman Schultz tried to dismiss my lack of experience as a candidate, and was quoted in the local newspaper as saying that I had never contributed anything to the community. I responded with a broadside pointing out that she was devaluing the contributions made each day to the community by our teachers. Over the years, I have taught and mentored thousands of young men and women from neighborhoods around South Florida, and through them and their families, I developed very good insight and understanding of the many problems and challenges faced by working people in our communities.
JB: The lines were clearly drawn. No one could say that the candidates were indistinguishable. So, what happened at the polls? Who was the People's Choice?
TC: The final public opinion polls conducted in the weeks before our 2016 primary showed Wasserman Schultz ahead by between 8 and 15 percentage points, but with even higher percentages of likely voters still undecided -- so there's a natural inclination to believe the final official results that I lost by about 13 percentage points. However, those public opinion surveys were based on telephone calls to only several hundred people on their landlines -- hardly a representative sample when huge supermajorities of voters don't have telephone landlines, especially among younger voters who flocked to my campaign.
It was interesting to contrast such flawed public opinion polls with our own internal field numbers. We built an enormous field operation, with four field offices throughout the district, about 50 full-time organizers, and hundreds of volunteers. At its peak in August 2016, we were knocking on 10,000 to 12,000 doors a week and calling 2,000 to 3,000 voters a week. Based on our final field numbers, we were winning and big at the end. We could have lost the vote-by-mail by a landslide and we were still on track to win. That was also our experience at every early voting and primary election day voting sites. But when the results were announced, we were told that we lost by 13 percentage points - in line with the flawed public opinion polls. But if hackers or corrupt insiders were rigging the election results by manipulating the software of the electronic voting machines, they would have certainly set their rigged results to replicate the flawed public opinion polls that were based only on voters with landlines.
In the days after my August 30, 2016 primary, a number of election integrity experts contacted me to report that they had found the certified results problematic. One team of data analysts said they found "statistical red flags" that brought the official results into question. One leading expert statistician concluded that the results of their "cumulative vote tally" were mathematically implausible. Since I'm not a statistician, I never knew how much weight to give to these concerns. Our final field numbers and our experience on the ground suggested a much different outcome from the official results. So as I heard from more experts and non-experts alike questioning the official results, I decided to put in a public-records request, at my own expense. We wanted to verify the vote by inspecting the ballots, initially in about a dozen key precincts. If the ballots matched up with the official results, then we would put all those suspicions to rest.
In November 2016, we put in the first of three public records requests with the Broward County Supervisor of Elections to inspect the ballots. We were first told that Brenda Snipes, the Supervisor, had taken no digital scanned images, and we were stonewalled for more than half a year in our attempts to inspect the paper ballots. I finally filed a lawsuit in June 2017, and while the suit was pending, the Supervisor ordered the destruction of all the paper ballots cast, in violation of multiple federal and state criminal statutes.
In the destruction order, Snipes falsely certified that the ballots were not the subject of pending litigation. She also concealed the ballot destruction from the court for more than two months, showing bad faith and willfulness in her crimes. When she admitted to destroying the paper ballots, Snipes then claimed to have digital scanned images. She paid about $15,000 to have a software company come in and manipulate and arrange the digital scans for viewing. Our requests to inspect the software were rejected because the software is considered "proprietary," the private property and trade secrets of the private software vendor hired by Snipes.
JB: That's outrageous! Were you flabbergasted by Snipes's brazenness? And, more to the point, where did that leave you?
TC: Yes, it was and is outrageous. I think Snipes probably did what she was told to do. To find out what really happened would require a criminal investigation. We were hoping that would happen when Snipes admitted to her crimes in a videotaped sworn deposition and then when the Florida Circuit Court granted me summary judgment in my public-records lawsuit, ruling that Snipes had violated multiple state and federal criminal statutes, including felonies punishable by up to five years in prison. We were hoping that Florida Governor Rick Scott, a Republican, would fire the supervisor and order an investigation. We were hoping the U.S. Justice Department would investigate. We were hoping that Republicans at every level -- federal, state, and local -- would have every incentive to bring down Snipes and investigate any connection to Wasserman Schultz. None of that has happened. And the reason is even more disturbing. The same corporate interests that back the Republicans also back Wasserman Schultz and the Broward Democratic Party establishment. And that includes the same corporate interests that are doing so much damage to the people and environment throughout the state of Florida.
A few weeks ago, we had primary elections here in Florida. Although I was not on the ballot, we canvassed many of the early voting and primary election day voting sites. Everywhere we went, Wasserman Schultz is highly unpopular, and everywhere voters have paid attention to our efforts. In endorsing me recently, The Miami Times wrote, "What is impressive about Canova is that he never stopped campaigning for the seat." Perhaps more precise is that we never stopped campaigning on the issues, to fight corruption, to protect our environment, and to provide a decent living and healthcare for all our neighbors.
The recent primary was also another debacle for Brenda Snipes and the Broward Supervisor of Elections office, which mysteriously found 5,000 new ballots the day after the primary, changing the results of a judicial election, and requiring recounts. Several losing candidates -- Republicans, Democrats, Green Party, and independents -- are now openly questioning their election results, and some may eventually file lawsuits against Snipes. The Lerman Law Firm announced a call for whistleblowers and an investigation into potential misconduct, fraud, and corruption in the Supervisor's office.
I'm not surprised at the virulent backlash against the Supervisor. When an elections official like Snipes gets away with destroying ballots -- felonies! -- then, of course, people will lose faith and confidence in election results. That's why we need criminal prosecutions of corrupt election officials, and we need real election reforms: 100% hand-marked paper ballots, counted by hand in public, and backed up with risk-limiting audits.