REVIEW & OUTLOOK
Democrats try to steal an election in Florida. Friday, December 1, 2006 12:01 a.m. Democrats whomped Republicans in last month's midterms, but oddly enough they're still calling in the legal cavalry to contest one of the few races they narrowly lost.
That would be Florida's 13th Congressional District, which runs along the Gulf Coast from just south of Tampa to just north of Fort Myers. The certified winner is Republican Vern Buchanan, who beat Democrat Christine Jennings by fewer than 400 votes out of more than 237,000 cast. Two recounts, which were demanded by Democrats and required by law, have reconfirmed Mr. Buchanan's victory and slightly increased the margin.
Unbowed, the Dems are now suggesting that defective voting machines cost them the race. They point to Sarasota County's 18,000 "undervotes," or incidences where voters cast ballots in other races but not the Buchanan-Jennings contest. Ms. Jennings--along with such liberal partisans as People for the American Way and the American Civil Liberties Union--has filed a lawsuit contesting the results based on "statistical and eyewitness evidence of significant machine malfunctions" in Sarasota's iVotronic touch-screen system.
They want a court to declare Ms. Jennings the winner by--get this--using statistical models to extrapolate that she would have received most of the undervotes. Short of that, they'll settle for nullifying the November results and holding a new election. But among the many things that are strange here is that if anyone ought to be complaining about undervotes, it's the GOP. Sarasota is the largest and most Republican county in the district, yet the Democrat, Ms. Jennings, carried it handily. In fact, it's the only county in the district that she did carry, which makes it more likely that it was Republicans who declined to vote in the Congressional race, not Democrats.
And there are reasons so many voters might have taken a pass on this race while voting in others on the ballot. For starters, the Republican primary featured an exceptional amount of mudslinging. The primary was also a five-man race with four candidates from Sarasota County. Mr. Buchanan won the GOP nomination with just 32% of the vote, and some of his primary opponents either waited until the last minute to issue a public endorsement or never got around to it. So it's entirely possible that voters were turned off by the negative campaigning and chose neither Mr. Buchanan nor Ms. Jennings in silent protest.
By the way, undervoting isn't uncommon in the district. Two years ago, there were more than 12,000 Sarasota County undervotes in Democrat Jan Schneider's House race against Republican Representative Katherine Harris. The 2000 race for the 13th district seat, which predated the use of touch-screen voting machines, also featured a high number of undervotes.
This week, Florida election officials began auditing the voting machines, which is the very thorough and transparent process for determining whether they worked properly on Election Day. There is still no evidence that the machines malfunctioned.
But never mind. Speaker-in-waiting Nancy Pelosi allowed Ms. Jennings to vote in House leadership elections last month, and Democrats could attempt to disallow the Florida certification and vote to seat Ms. Jennings in January unless a new election is granted. Democrats did precisely that in a contested Indiana House race 20 years ago when they last held Congress.
All of this underscores how anti-Bush hatred has unhinged the political left. They still see Karl Rove lurking outside every voting booth. The Buchanan-Jennings contest has become a particular rallying point for fears about electronic voting, and liberals now want the machines to provide paper trails in the event of a recount. This might be a reasonable request if it were made in good faith. But back during the Florida debacle in 2000, before touch-screen voting was widely used, the same Democrats and liberal columnists deplored the inaccuracy of paper ballots and those "hanging chads."
All of which suggests that their real problem is the outcome of the race, not the integrity of the voting process. Some liberals are so paranoid nowadays that they aren't happy even when they win.
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