Lawsuit Blames E-voting Glitches For Florida Election Undercount

The losing candidate in a disputed Florida congressional election has filed a lawsuit contending that glitches in electronic voting machines in Sarasota County were the main reason for most of the 18,000 so-called undervotes there in the Nov. 7 election.

Christine Jennings last week filed suit in Leon County’s Second Circuit Court in Tallahassee contending that the glitches in machines used in Sarasota County affected the outcome of her race because 18,000 voters taking part in the election apparently did not cast a ballot in that contest. The candidate asked that a county judge order a new election.

Jennings, a Democrat, lost the race to represent Florida’s 13th District in the U.S. House of Representatives by 369 votes to Republican Vern Buchanan. Two recounts upheld that tally. The election was officially certified on Nov. 20 by the Florida Elections Canvassing Commission.

Undervotes, or ballots that have been cast but are missing votes for individual races, represented 15% of the votes cast in Sarasota. That rate was abnormally high, Jennings maintains in her lawsuit. The rates in other counties were far lower, according to the suit.

Jennings contends in the lawsuit that the overwhelming majority of undervotes in Sarasota County were not conscious decisions by citizens not to cast a vote in the congressional race. Rather, she argues, they were caused by a problem with the touch-screen system.

The complaint names as defendants Florida Secretary of State Sue Cobb, the Elections Canvassing Commission, Buchanan and other county and state officials.

“The vote totals in the certification are wrong because they do not include thousands of legal votes that were cast in Sarasota County but not counted due to the pervasive malfunctioning of electronic voting machines,” stated the complaint.

The suit urged the judge to order a rapid examination of the audit and ballot image logs in the machines, have the Elections Canvassing Commission void the current results, decertify Buchanan as winner, and either declare Jennings the victor or hold a special election.

Voter Action, a nonprofit election watchdog organization in Berkeley, Calif., and the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida last week announced plans to jointly file another lawsuit calling on the same court to order an investigation of the performance of the e-voting machines and a new election.

Election Systems & Software Inc. in Omaha, the maker of Sarasota County’s e-voting machines, said it had not seen the lawsuit and declined to comment.

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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