Rising GOP Star Corrupt?

The FEC has filed a complaint over Republican Florida Congressman Vern Buchanan. MSNBC host Cenk Uygur breaks it down.


Dn' Fool M Again: The FL-13 Official Story

Somewhere else, it may have been reported but the official response to the Florida CD-13 voting scandal is too familiar to be avoided.  After becoming a national laughingstock in 2000. Florida worked hard to improve the accuracy of its voting systems.  The results were impressive.  The percentage of overvotes/undervotes dropped from a sorry (and significant)2.9% in 2000 to 0.78% in 2002 and a "historic low" of 0.41% in 2004.  UNfortunately. the error rate soared by 139% in 2006 back up to 0.98%.  

Secretary of State Kurt Browning points out that undervotes were higher in the Senate race than in the Governor's race.  Undervotes were also higher for absentee ballots than for ballots cast at the polls.  Nobody's saying this, but it is clear that a part of the problem was that some voters could neither vote for a Democrat or vote for Saturday Night Live makeup/parody queen Katherine Harris.  Just saying, but that was around 0.4% of voters.

Browning laid the huge undervote in Sarasota county on "human error" and poor ballot design.  Once more, the race in question featured a strangely designed ballot in one county (remember Broward's famous butterfly ballot of 2000) and ballots for the same race covering multiple pages and multiple races (Duval County, particularly its black precincts were an even worse problem in 2000).  Florida election officials may be selling, but I'm not buying.

There's more...

FL-13: Democrats To Seat Buchanan, For Now

The latest from the last unresolved election of 2006:A judge ruled Friday that congressional aspirant Christine Jennings has no right to examine the programming source code that runs the electronic voting machines at the center of a disputed Southwest Florida congressional race.

Democrats in Congress meanwhile, said they'd allow Republican Vern Buchanan to take the seat next Thursday, but with a warning that the inquiry wasn't over and that his hold on it could be temporary.

The state has certified Buchanan the winner of the District 13 race by a scant 369 votes.

Although she could appeal, the ruling Friday from Circuit Judge William Gary prevents the Jennings camp from being able to use the programming code to try to show voting machines used in Sarasota County malfunctioned. Jennings claims that an unusually large number of undervotes - ballots that didn't show a vote - recorded in the race implies the machines lost the votes.

Jennings still has a complaint filed, however, before Congress, which is the ultimate arbiter of who will fill the seat. The seat is being vacated by Rep. Katherine Harris, a Republican who unsuccessfully ran for the Senate.

"The House has the power to collect evidence and make a decision about who, if anyone, was duly elected to represent the people of the 13th district," U.S. Rep. Rush Holt, D-N.J., said Friday before the judge's ruling. Holt plans to make an official statement next week making it clear that by seating Buchanan, the House isn't forfeiting the right to reverse that decision later. This is the politically safe maneuver, designed to prevent the first few days and weeks of the Democratic Congress from being sidetracked. I worry, however, that even though Democrats have made it clear that they could reverse this decision, that by seating Buchanan they all but end any effective opposition to the legitimacy of the election in FL-13. The already difficult path for Jennings in FL-13 just became a lot more difficult.

FL-13: Seating Buchanan Is Not the End

Earlier today, Congressman Rush Holt (NJ-12) put out a statement that he will "take steps to put the U.S. House of Representatives on record as recognizing the justification of the electoral challenge filed by Congressional candidate Christine Jennings regarding the disputed election in Florida's 13th Congressional District, and making clear that any House proceedings on January 4, 2007, will not prejudice legal proceedings or legislative inquiry regarding the election's validity."

In other words, Holt will see to it that the House's seating of Republican Vern Buchanan is not taken as recognition of his victory (and thereby a rebuke of Jennings' challenge). Rep. Holt, the primary sponsor of the Voter Confidence and Accessibility Act, had this to say on the matter last month:

The inaccuracy of electronic touch-screen voting machines poses a direct threat to the integrity of our electoral system and to our nation's democracy. Once again this broken system has been exposed in Florida's 13th Congressional district where over 18,000 votes went uncounted. Without the means to fully guarantee that every vote is counted as fairly and accurately as possible, the authenticity of our recorded vote will always be uncertain and open to electoral and legal challenges.
Since then, others have speculated how to make matters right in this case. Following precedent, Howard Dean suggested Buchanan not be seated in the House, and Blue Jerseyencouraged Rep. Holt to lead that fight. Yet Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi has said little about the matter, and Jennings has now publicly relinquished opposition to seating Buchanan.

So, while Pelosi and other members of House leadership sit on the sidelines, Rep. Holt is getting in the game for democracy. In his latest statement, he clearly says

Under federal law, there is a procedure in place for reviewing contested elections. The House should do nothing to compromise or prejudice the case Ms. Jennings has before the Florida courts. I expect the evidence will show that the certification did not reflect the will of the voters and a re-vote is necessary. [Emphasis added]

There's more...

FL-13 News

One of the lawsuits begins today. From a People for the American Way Press release: A hearing in the nonpartisan lawsuit seeking a revote for disenfranchised voters in Sarasota County's congressional election, as well as in the case brought by congressional candidate Christine Jennings, is scheduled for this afternoon and Wednesday. The nonpartisan lawsuit represents the interests of Republican, Democratic, and independent voters.

The hearing will focus on the discovery process for the suit, especially whether iVotronic voting machine manufacturer ES&S must permit examination of its source code by plaintiffs' independent investigators. Meanwhile, it looks as though the strategy we expected here on MyDD, seating Buchanan but ordering a House investigation of the election, is what will actually happen:Any effort to prevent Buchanan from taking the seat would have to be approved by the full House.

If Pelosi decides to pursue that route, her new majority presumably would vote for it. But a source close to the Democratic leadership, who requested anonymity when discussing party strategy, said Pelosi most likely would let Buchanan take office while ordering an investigation by the House Administration Committee into whether a new election is warranted.

Pelosi is being pressed by Democratic activists to take a tougher stance and block Buchanan from being sworn in.

Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean told Florida's Bay News 9 earlier this month: "You cannot seat someone if you don't have an election that's valid."

The liberal organization MoveOn.org delivered a petition to Capitol Hill on Friday urging Congress to order a new election.

Historically, denying certified winners their seats can be the political equivalent of a bare-knuckles brawl on Capitol Hill. In 1984, partisan tensions ran high in a dispute over what came to be known as Indiana's "Bloody 8th" district.

In that race, Republican Richard McIntyre had been declared the winner by 34 votes one day after the election and by 418 votes after a state-ordered recount. But the Democratic-controlled House refused to seat him. For a time, both McIntyre and the Democratic candidate Frank McCloskey drew congressional pay, but neither was officially seated. Six months later, after another recount, McCloskey was declared the victor by four votes. Republicans cried foul and stormed out of the chamber when McCloskey was seated. Then-Rep. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., said at the time, "This wound will not heal without a terrible price and a scar that will not disappear for many years." This is probably the safest route to take right now, which keeps the issue alive but does not gum up the first couple weeks of the Democratic House. In the end, however, I don't really care how much Republicans cry foul over the FL-13. The only just solution is a new election, and in a few months hopefully that is the outcome that can be achieved.


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