Disputed Fla. Election to Spill Into U.S. House


Richard Moore

Original source URL:

December 29, 2006

Disputed Fla. Election to Spill Into U.S. House
Filed at 5:31 p.m. ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A disputed election result in a U.S. House of 
Representatives race in Florida will be one of the first items raised 
when the Democratic-controlled House convenes next week, injecting 
partisan politics into the start of the 110th Congress.

Rep. Rush Holt, a New Jersey Democrat who has pushed for better 
safeguards on electronic voting machines, said on Friday he would 
make a procedural point to establish the swearing-in of Florida 
Republican Vern Buchanan does not prejudice ongoing challenges by his 
Democratic opponent, Christine Jennings.

``This is a district, Sarasota area in Florida, where there's no way 
of knowing whether the result presented by Florida's secretary of 
state is valid. In fact, I think there is significant evidence that 
it is not,'' Holt told reporters.

Buchanan was certified the winner of the November 7 election by a 
369-vote margin. Oddly, about 18,000 ballots in Sarasota County had 
no votes recorded for the disputed House race, while other races on 
those ballots were voted on.

The disputed Florida seat had been held by Republican Rep. Katherine 
Harris, the former Florida secretary of state who certified George W. 
Bush as the winner of the disputed 2000 presidential race in Florida 
over Al Gore.

Jennings suffered a legal setback on Friday when a Florida judge 
denied a request by her and groups including the ACLU and People for 
the American Way Foundation to examine the voting machine hardware 
and software.

Florida Circuit Court Judge William Gary said no evidence had been 
provided of malfunctions and that granting access to the machines 
would ``result in destroying or at least gutting the protections 
afforded those who own the trade secrets'' associated with the 

David Becker, senior attorney for People for the American Way 
Foundation, said a review of the judge's ruling would be requested. 
``We need to look inside these machines, just like if it was a ballot 
box eating ballots,'' Becker said.

Kevin Smith, a spokesman for House Republican leader John Boehner, 
said the matter was settled.

``Florida authorities conducted a thorough audit of the voting 
machines used in the district and found no system breakdowns or 
abnormalities.'' He added: ``The election is over. Vern Buchanan 


Holt said he would make the ``formal inquiry'' immediately after 
Democratic Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California is sworn in as speaker of 
the House on Thursday.

Democrats wrested the House and Senate from Republican control in 
November's elections.

Jennings has also asked the House Administration Committee to 
investigate the balloting. Ultimately, in disputed elections, the 
House has the last word on who is a member of the legislative body.

Close elections are not uncommon and fights over results sometimes 
poison the atmosphere between Republicans and Democrats in Congress.

A glaring example was the 1984 race between Indiana Democrat Frank 
McCloskey and Republican Richard McIntyre. McCloskey was thought to 
have won narrowly, but a recount gave McIntyre an edge and Indiana's 
Republican secretary of state certified him the winner. Democrats in 
control of the House then ordered a recount by the U.S. General 
Accounting Office and McCloskey won by four votes.

Republicans were bitter about the result for years.

Copyright 2006 Reuters Ltd.

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