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As recount politics heat up, two Florida election officials are the targets of online harassment


Several pro-Trump Facebook pages and one Twitter account on Monday posted the home address and phone number of the Broward County, Fla., election supervisor who has been the target of blistering criticism from the president and other Republicans amid highly politicized vote recounts.

Posting the home address of Elections Supervisor Brenda Snipes — a tactic called “doxing” — often is a step toward harassment of people in the public spotlight and is prohibited by Facebook, Twitter and most other online platforms. The incident came amid rising vilification of the top election official in Florida’s most Democratic county as the state recounts closely fought elections for the governorship and U.S. Senate.

Facebook confirmed Tuesday that it had removed personal information about Snipes after the incident was reported to the company. It also confirmed a similar incident involving Palm Beach County’s Elections Supervisor Susan Bucher, whose home address and phone number also were posted on a Facebook page.

Twitter declined to comment. Two tweets from an account visible Tuesday morning were deleted by noon.

The posting of the home addresses and phone numbers of the Florida elections officials was discovered by an independent researcher who reported it to The Washington Post on the condition of anonymity, out of fear of becoming a target of online attacks. The Post reviewed all the relevant pages.

Snipes expressed shock and concern that her personal information had been publicized. “That's crazy because I have not done anything wrong,” she said. “We had an excellent election with record turnout. And then it turns into this ugly monster because it gets political."

Bucher declined to comment.

Snipes has been the target of attacks from Trump, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and others in recent days and also been the focus of critical stories in popular conservative publications such as Breitbart News. Protesters outside the Broward elections office have cried “Lock her up!” in an echo from Trump campaign rallies where Hillary Clinton was the foil.

Seber Newsome III, 61, an Army veteran and retired postal service employee from Nassau County, Fla., appears to have been the first to post information online about Snipes and Bucher. He described himself as a former Democrat who became a Trump supporter in 2016 and has monitored last week’s Florida election aftermath mainly on Fox News.

Newsome said he found the personal information for Snipes and Bucher in online searches and was merely attempting to encourage people to write letters or call them to register displeasure to how the recount is being conducted. He said he would not favor people appearing at their homes to protest.

“It’s all public,” said Newsome. “I didn’t break no law.”

Facebook said in a statement, “The sharing of personal information like this is not permitted on our platform and we have removed multiple instances of such information being shared. As we find similar instances, we will also remove those.”

Newsome said that Facebook limited his ability to post new messages Tuesday morning as punishment for violating its policies. Newsome called it “Facebook jail” and said he wished he had published the addresses and phone numbers for the elections offices instead. His Facebook page has many references to the Confederacy and images of the Confederate battle flag, which Newsome said was an attempt to honor his family heritage.

On Tuesday afternoon, Facebook said that Newsome has been banned from the platform entirely for these and other violations of company rules.

The information about Snipes also appeared on Facebook groups called “TRUMP TRAIN-MAGA Fan Club,” “Confederate Resistance,” “Trump=Truth (c),” and “TRUE AMERICANS UNITE FOR PRES. DONALD TRUMP.” Together these four groups have more than 47,000 members. Several of the members of these groups cheered Newsome for publishing information on Snipes.

On Twitter, the home address for Snipes appeared in tweets from an account under the name “Random Shmo,” with the profile image featuring a white man in a jacket and tie with his face blurred. The account profile says, “Average Shmo, Single father of 3 Let Morals, Values, & Ethics guide you. Same rules of law for Gov. as We The People. Drain the Swamp! #WakeUp.”

A message seeking comment from this account was not returned.

Public criticisms of Snipes grew intense last week when Gov. Rick Scott, who at first appeared to narrowly win his campaign for a U.S. Senate seat against incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson, declared in a news conference from the governor’s mansion that Snipes “has a history of acting in absolute bad faith.” Rubio and former Florida governor Jeb Bush have called for her ouster.

A pro-Trump political committee says it is spending $250,000 on an ad attacking Snipes on television in southern and central Florida and online. “Legal voters in Florida are outraged, and Brenda Snipes must be removed,” says the ad by Great America PAC, which suggests blatant fraud but offers no evidence. “When we can’t trust our elections, we don’t have a democracy.”

Snipes, a former educator, was appointed by Bush, a Republican, in 2003 after he ousted her predecessor for mismanagement. She has since has been reelected four times.

Her tenure has been marred by controversy. During the 2004 presidential election, Snipes blamed the U.S. Postal Service for losing 58,000 absentee ballots, then later announced that only 6,000 ballots had disappeared. Postal officials said they had done nothing wrong. Then Snipes’s office dropped off 2,400 blank absentee ballots for voters at the post office on a Saturday before the election, after mail carriers were already gone for the day.

In 2016, Snipes was accused of destroying the physical ballots in a congressional race while saving digital copies as a lawsuit was pending — a violation of a federal statute requiring that congressional ballots be saved for 22 months after an election.

In an interview Sunday, as the recount was getting underway, Snipes said she was hoping the controversy would blow over. She acknowledged her office has made some mistakes, including the destruction of ballots in 2016. But she also pointed to accomplishments such as expanding the number of early-voting sites from nine to 22 locations.

“I do want the voters to think about my overall record and not look and just one or two things,” she said. “I’ve always been a Democrat, but I don’t run this office as a partisan operation.”

Snipes, who is African American, said she wondered if her gender or race was fueling the attacks. “I’m one of the few black women in this position so I have to wonder if that is a factor,” she said.

Ion Sancho, who recently retired as an elections supervisor in northern Florida after three decades, said of the Broward elections office: “There’s nothing criminal going on here. She’s just not among the best practitioners of her craft in the profession.”

Sean Sullivan, Alice Crites and Lori Rozsa in Riviera Beach, Fla. contributed to this report. Reinhard reported from Lauderhill, Fla.