Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Democrat Challanging FL-13 Result

The Sarasota Herald-Tribune is reporting that Democratic challenger Christine Jennings is challenging the results of her loss to Republican Vern Buchanan. The Jennings camp is pointing to presumed problems with the electronic voting machines.

Hanging over that recount is an unusually high undervote in Sarasota County from the Nov. 7 election. More than 18,000 voters in Sarasota County left the race for Congress blank, causing many Democrats to speculate whether electronic voting machines failed to register votes that should have gone to Jennings.
Reaction from the Buchanan campaign:
Buchanan's campaign spokeswoman Sally Tibbetts said the legal action had no basis and just shows Jennings is trying to "litigate a victory."
Buchanan is holding onto a slight lead going into the recount:
As of Monday afternoon, the Florida Department of State reported that Buchanan had a 377-vote lead over Jennings, less than 0.2 percent.

Yet that figure got adjusted slightly, narrowing the gap in Jennings' favor, as some counties finished counting provisional ballots.
Provisional ballots could make the difference - and cause Buchanan some problems:
The counting of 245 provisional ballots could prove vital in the close race.

Provisional ballots tend to favor Democrats, said Justin Pleasants, a University of Florida professor.

Voters can cast provisional ballots if they believe they're registered but their names aren't in the precinct books. Or if they've forgotten to bring a photo ID. Sometimes voters have been wrongly purged from the rolls or the voter goes to the wrong polling place, Pleasants said.

In each case, a provisional ballot can be filled out and elections officials determine later whether it is valid.
Compounding problems for election officials is the fact that the 13th District reaches into 5 counties. The Herald-Tribune reports that Pelosi and the Democratic Party may decide to sit this one out.
Although the U.S. House could ultimately decide the race, political insiders say Pelosi and other Democrats have to measure their responses to assure the American public that they are focusing on key issues rather that making an overtly partisan stand.
Former U.S. Rep. Bill Paxon, R-N.Y., who now lives on Longboat Key, said it would be a disaster to try to seat Jennings over Buchanan. He said when Democrats sat Rep. Frank McCloskey over Republican Richard McIntyre after a disputed election in Indiana, it created years of ill will between the parties.

"It would be a highly partisan move," Paxon said.

Pelosi is already under pressure to prove Democrats will work with Republicans and President Bush rather than turn Congress into gridlock and seek revenge for 12 years of being in the minority party.

"We've got to break down walls and reach across the aisle," said U.S. Rep. Allen Boyd, D-Monticello. "This is not about retaliation for our folks."

Boyd said it's too early to know what role Congress will want to play.

Expending too much political capital on Jennings could also send a bad message to the American public in other ways, said University of South Florida political science professor Susan MacManus. She said if Democrats engage in a prolonged legal war for Jennings, it may appear to the public that they are distracted.

"They need to be focused on national issues rather than this one race," MacManus said.
Democratic leaders did invite Jennings to freshmen orientation, making for an awkward situation in Washington yesterday.

Ironically, the 13th District is the seat held by Rep. Katherine Harris. Hopefully, this will not be a repeat of 2000. There is hope for a reasonable outcome - it's not Broward or Palm Beach counties.

Sarasota Herald-Tribune's Recount Page

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