Florida House Dispute May Lead To Revote

The ballot for the 13th Congressional District race between Republican Vern Buchanan and Democrat Christine Jennings, as it appeared on touchscreen voting booths on Nov. 7th in Sarasota County, Fla. 18,000 ballots - representing 13 percent of voters - were blank for the 13th District House race but did show choices in other races. AP/Sarasota Herald-Tribune

A House task force will take the first steps Tuesday in an investigation of a Florida congressional election decided by 369 votes amid complaints that voting machines failed to count thousands of electronic ballots.

Republican Vern Buchanan was declared the winner of the election, a result Democrat Christine Jennings is challenging in Florida court.

The House, which has final authority over its membership, typically waits until legal challenges are completed before taking action. But Florida Democrats last month asked the House Administration Committee to begin reviewing the election after reports of an anomaly in the touch-screen voting machines that recorded about 18,000 skipped votes in Sarasota County.

Committee Chairwoman Juanita Millender-McDonald, D-Calif., created the three-member task force to investigate the issue and report back to the full committee.

Jennings' spokesman David Kochman said it is time for congressional intervention and order a revote.

"We think this is an important step," Kochman said Monday. "It's already been more than five months since the election and we don't have any answers. Hopefully this will bring answers."

The controversy in Florida's 13th Congressional District has become a rallying point for advocates challenging the accuracy of electronic voting machines.

News reports last month revealed that voting machine manufacturer Elections Systems & Software informed state and local election officials of the machine's slow response times nearly three months before the November election.

Kochman said the company's memo is significant because it shows there were problems with the iVotronic machines that were not disclosed to the public or Jennings' lawyers, although they had requested all correspondence about issues with the machines.

The company has said the slow response is not the reason no votes were recorded in the race for some 18,000 Sarasota County voters who cast ballots in other contests.

The rate of non-votes in the county was far beyond the norm, but a state audit and two recounts found no evidence of a malfunction in the machines.

Jennings and several voter advocacy groups have appealed a circuit judge's decision not to allow them access to ES&S source code, which the company says is proprietary. A decision on those cases is still pending.

Buchanan and Jennings campaigned for the House seat Katherine Harris left to make an unsuccessful Senate run. As Florida's secretary of state in 2000, Harris presided over the presidential election recount that gave George W. Bush the presidency.
  • James Klatell

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