Voting Problems? in Florida? No Way!

By Bleifuss, Joel | In These Times, January 2007 | Go to article overview

Voting Problems? in Florida? No Way!


Bleifuss, Joel, In These Times


FOLLOWING THE 2000 election a popular bumper sticker in Florida read, "If you think we can't vote, wait 'til you see us drive." But nobody's laughing now.

Unless the Democratic-controlled House votes to hold a new election, Republican Vern Buchanan will represent Florida's 13th congressional district in the 110th Congress. Buchanan "won" election by beating Democrat Christine Jennings by 369 votes out of 237, 861 cast.

The election was held on direct-recording electronic (DRE) voting machines that don't leave a paper trail. Strangely, according to the machine count, 18,382 voters in Democratic Sarasota County did not bother to cast a ballot in the congressional race (that's 15 percent of those who voted in the county on November 7). That is unlikely, since it was a hotly contested battle for the seat vacated by former Secretary of State Katherine Harris, who ran for Senate and was soundly defeated. (Yes, Al, there is a God.)

All evidence points to voting machine malfunction. If those 18,382 votes had gone to Jennings by the same percentage with which she carried Sarasota County, 53 percent, she would have won the election by 600 votes.

The machines in question are iVotronic DRE touch-screens manufactured by Election Systems & Software (ES&S). According to a Sarasota Herald-Tribune survey of election workers, one in three reported that they had received complaints from voters who said their votes did not register. And more than 100 voters have told Jennings' campaign that, after voting on the iVotronic touch screen machines, their votes for Jennings did not show up on the summary displayed at the end of the voting process.

A recount was conducted, but little changed, which is only natural. One can't really recount votes cast on DRE voting machines-one can only re-run the vote-counting program that caused the problem in the first place. Nevertheless, Gov. Jeb Bush, a champion of electronic voting, certified the recount and promised that the Sarasota machines would be audited-by Alec Yasinsac, a Florida State University professor who during the 2000 election imbroglio held vigil on the steps of the Florida Supreme Court wearing a "Bush Won" button.

It is up to the Democratic leadership in the House to decide whether or not to call for a re-vote. MoveOn.org has organized a national petition drive aimed at Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Short and sweet, the petition reads, "In the wake of Florida's electronic voting machine meltdown, Congress should call for a re-vote and repair our nation's elections."

Florida Republicans, skilled in the art of stealing elections, have geared up for battle. Miami Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart told the Sr. Petersburg Times, "If that happens ... forget about any possibility of pretending to be civil. That would be an affront to democracy."

The 2006 Exit Poll Discrepancy

WITH A COUPLE of notable exceptions the 2006 mid-term elections were not fraught with the problems that were endemic in 2004.

Unlike 2004, in 2006 there was no glitch in the CNN computer system, so we don't have access to the unadjusted results of the exit poll that was conducted for ABC, CBS, CNN, NBC, Fox and AP. And unlike 2004, the two firms conducting the exit polls, Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International, waited until 5 p.m. EST to release their exit polls to their media clients.

However, after 5 p.m. EST someone at CNN did leak some of the exit poll results for 10 Senate races to Think-Progress, the blog of the Center for American Progress in Washington.

In two key races for the Senate, the exit polls indicated election results that diverged significantly from the official results.

In Montana, the exit polls indicated that Jon Tester would win 53 percent of the vote to Conrad Burns 46 percent. However in the official count Tester eked out a 49 percent to 48 percent victory over Burns. In other words, there was a 6-percentage point discrepancy between the exit polls and the official count. …

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