Wednesday, November 15, 2006

** Update ** FL-13: Undervotes Being Blamed

After Day 2 of the FL District 13 recount, Republican Vern Buchanan has extended his lead slightly. (This post based on Sarasota Herald-Tribune story)


New vote counts and changes since Nov. 7

Charlotte County
Buchanan = 4,460
Jennings = 4,275
+2 for Jennings

DeSoto County
Buchanan = 3,466
Jennings = 3,053
+5 for Buchanan

Hardee County
Buchanan = 2,628
Jennings = 1,684
+4 for Buchanan

Manatee County
Buchanan = 50,088
Jennings = 44,404
+18 for Buchanan

Sarasota County
Buchanan = 58,535
Jennings = 65,366
+2 for Buchanan

Buchanan = 119,177
Jennings = 118,782
+27 for Buchanan

Note: Figures include provisional ballots for Manatee, Charlotte and Hardee counties. The 164 provisional ballots from Sarasota and DeSoto counties have not yet been tallied. Some overseas ballots are still trickling in. Overseas ballots must be received by the Supervisor of Elections offices by 5 p.m. Friday to be counted.

An analysis of the race indicates a 13% undervote (percent of voters that skipped the District 13 race on their ballot) in Sarasota County. This leads to the obvious question of why - why did voters skip the District 13 race? Here are some possible explanations:
The Herald-Tribune reviewed undervote counts in 10 counties that use the same computer system as Sarasota and Charlotte. When other races were paired on the screen with the governor candidates, undervotes in the other race soared, suggesting ballot design may explain why some people skipped those races.

Many speculate that voters opted out of the District 13 race to protest the aggressive and sometimes nasty campaign between Republican Vern Buchanan and Democrat Christine Jennings.

In addition, some voters say they had a hard time getting their votes to register when they touched the screen.
The Jennings campaign is leaning on the fact that Sarasota County - the only county that she won - and that the thousands of potential votes there could have thrown the election in her favor.

While there appears to a problem with the Sarasota County ballot, this situation begs the question: Why were so many voters able to understand the ballot? Sarasota County Supervisor of Elections Kathy Dent seems to be asking the same question.
"There were thousands and thousands and thousands of people who did" vote in the race, Dent said, "and their votes were recorded. I just can not attribute it to any one thing."
Perhaps this is one more instance of people failing to take on personal responsibility - the responsibility to carefully undertake one of their most sacred rights.

I have yet to hear anyone make accusations of vote-rigging. But it's still early.

Meanwhile, both candidates have continued to go through the freshman orientation process in Washington. Yep, she's in the picture!

Fortunately, Florida voters elected Charlie Christ, a leader who is not inclined toward knee-jerk reactions in the face of an issue like this.
Asked if it was time to reconsider using electronic voting machines, Republican governor-elect Charlie Crist said, "I don't know. Let's monitor what's happening in Sarasota and let the secretary of state do some great work down there."
I can only imagine the grandstanding that would be taking place if the governor's race had gone the other way.

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