Who Really Won?

Thursday, December 21, 2006


After weeks of focusing her challenge to the close election results in Florida’s 13th Congressional District on that state’s elections bureaucracy and court system, Democratic nominee Christine Jennings moved Wednesday to get Congress officially involved in her vote-counting dispute with the state-certified winner, Republican Vern Buchanan.

Jennings, a former banker, filed paperwork with the House clerk to officially contest the race in Florida’s 13th District, alleging widespread voting machine irregularities. [ The Bradenton Herald] The filing came not long before a deadline of 6 p.m. Wednesday, the conclusion of the 30-day period since the results were certified by the office of Florida’s secretary of state.

The matter will be referred to the House Administration Committee, which will decide whether to proceed with an investigation of a complaint that includes requests by Jennings for the Nov. 7 results to be vacated and for the election to be held over again.

And because the Republican-controlled 109th Congress has already completed its work, the committee will have a new Democratic majority after the 110th Congress is installed Jan. 4. The Florida 13 contest is the only House race still in dispute in an election campaign that delivered the Democrats a 30-seat gain and a total of 233 seats, 15 more than they needed for a bare majority in the 435-seat House.

While Jennings’ complaint now officially rests in the hands of the House committee, the conflict over the election’s outcome creates an even more pressing situation for incoming Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and other House Democratic leaders: whether to seat Buchanan as the certified winner in Florida 13.

The House will be forced to make this choice if a single member challenges Buchanan’s right to the seat. The members would then have to choose between seating Buchanan unconditionally, seating Buchanan conditionally “pending the outcome of an investigation” or leaving the seat vacant pending resolution of the dispute, according to a Congressional Research Service report.

A House resolution not to seat Buchanan would be put to a vote before the Democratic-controlled chamber.

• The “Undervote” Controversy: The office of Florida’s secretary of state certified Buchanan as the winner by 369 votes out of more than 238,000 counted in the race to succeed two-term Republican Rep. Katherine Harris (news, bio, voting record), who this year ran an unsuccessful bid for the Senate.

But Jennings’ protest centers on votes that weren’t counted — namely 18,000 “undervotes” in Sarasota County, the 13th District’s largest jurisdiction and the part of the district where Jennings ran strongest. These ballots, mostly cast on electronic machines, contained votes cast for other offices but not in the House race.

Jennings argues that the Sarasota County undervotes greatly exceeded those cast in the rest of the 13th District, which the Democrat charges is the result of voting machines in Sarasota failing to register many intended votes for the House candidates.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

If It's Broke, Why Fix It?

A federal advisory panel on Monday rejected a recommendation that states use only voting machines that produced results that could be independently verified.

The panel drafting voting guidelines for the U.S. Election Assistance Commission voted 6-6 not to adopt a proposal that would have required electronic machines used by millions of voters to produce a paper record or other independent means of checking election results. Eight votes were needed to pass it.

The failed resolution, proposed by Ronald Rivest, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology computer scientist and panel member, closely mirrored a report released last week warning that paperless electronic voting machines are vulnerable to errors and fraud and cannot be made secure.