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Another Florida vote SNAFU

District 13 in Florida is home to yet another Florida voting problem. But this time with a twist. Buchanan won by a slim margin in multiple counts, yet it’s possible Speaker Pelosi won’t allow Buchanan to take his seat in January when Congress convenes. This is not completely unprecedented in a disputed election, but certainly is highly unusual.

Pelosi’s challenge

… House Speaker Nancy Pelosi refuses to rule out the possibility that Democrat Christine Jennings could be seated to represent the 13th District when the 110th Congress convenes in 12 days.

Republicans and even some Democrats said they expect the seat to go to Republican Vern Buchanan, the certified winner by 369 votes.

So what will Speaker Pelosi do? The votes have been counted twice.

Speaker-designate Nancy Pelosi’s pledge to bring bipartisan peace to that most partisan of institutions — the House of Representatives — could be put to a test early in the new Congress by the District 13 election dispute in Florida.

When the Democratic-controlled Congress convenes in January, Pelosi might be faced with a decision on whether to seek to deny certified Republican winner Vern Buchanan from taking his seat.

Buchanan was declared the winner by 369 votes. But Democrat Christine Jennings has gone to court seeking a new election, asserting that the electronic voting machines malfunctioned.

“The votes have been recounted twice — confirming Vern Buchanan won the election,” said his spokeswoman, Sally Tibbetts. “It is time for Christine Jennings to … concede this election.”

We’re in another situation where votes aren’t seeking to be counted, they’re seeking to be cast. Someone lost, and they don’t like it so they want a second election. It’s time for politicians to stop seeking to get more chances via the courts. The votes have been counted more than once. Jennings isn’t trying to get a good count, she’s trying to get more votes cast.

What about the citizens of the district? Should Jennings be able to single-handedly deny them representation until she finally concedes? Court battles could take months — or longer. And if a new election is granted and she wins, what then? Best two out of three?

This will be yet another challenge for Speaker Pelosi and her leadership. Will she go the hyper-partisan route? Or really try to be bipartisan and reasonable? The most reasonable idea is simply to allow the certified winner to be seated (and also has historical precedent). This seat really doesn’t matter much nationally anyway — Democrats control Congress however this seat goes; why take a chance playing the partisan card and starting a partisan war?

Let the legal challenge proceed — but allow the declared and certified winner to take office. Democracy is served as the rules are followed, and challenges are allowed.

Voting Machines

Yet this (and other voting snafu’s) lead to a disturbing problem — why is counting votes so hard? Banks and ATM’s have figured out how to make a machine almost perfect; who tolerates mistakes with their money? If banks can do it, certainly we must be able to make verifiable, reliable voting machines.

If Speaker Pelosi really wants to do something, she should call for a national voting machine to be designed. It’s source code should be open for anyone to see, run on a secure operating system (some form of secure UNIX), not connected to a network, and have a paper trail for just this kind of situation. Both parties (or anyone else) could then inspect both the machine and the voting trail, and challenges from sore losers would disappear.

Since nobody in Congress calls for such a system, the only conclusion is both parties benefit from endless court challenges and multiple recounts.

Come on — banks created ATM’s and they work pretty well.


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