Cheats

Matthew Hoy
By Matthew Hoy on December 1, 2006

Today's Wall Street Journal has a troubling report on Democrat dirty tricks in Florida -- again.

Democrats whomped Republicans in last month's midterms, but oddly enough they're still calling in the legal cavalry to contest one of the few races they narrowly lost.

That would be Florida's 13th Congressional District, which runs along the Gulf Coast from just south of Tampa to just north of Fort Myers. The certified winner is Republican Vern Buchanan, who beat Democrat Christine Jennings by fewer than 400 votes out of more than 237,000 cast. Two recounts, which were demanded by Democrats and required by law, have reconfirmed Mr. Buchanan's victory and slightly increased the margin.

Unbowed, the Dems are now suggesting that defective voting machines cost them the race. They point to Sarasota County's 18,000 "undervotes," or incidences where voters cast ballots in other races but not the Buchanan-Jennings contest. Ms. Jennings--along with such liberal partisans as People for the American Way and the American Civil Liberties Union--has filed a lawsuit contesting the results based on "statistical and eyewitness evidence of significant machine malfunctions" in Sarasota's iVotronic touch-screen system.

They want a court to declare Ms. Jennings the winner by--get this--using statistical models to extrapolate that she would have received most of the undervotes. Short of that, they'll settle for nullifying the November results and holding a new election. But among the many things that are strange here is that if anyone ought to be complaining about undervotes, it's the GOP. Sarasota is the largest and most Republican county in the district, yet the Democrat, Ms. Jennings, carried it handily. In fact, it's the only county in the district that she did carry, which makes it more likely that it was Republicans who declined to vote in the Congressional race, not Democrats.

I really encourage you to read the entire article.

A couple of things about this that are striking:

First, when a Republican loses by a miniscule margin, you generally don't get lawsuits or charges that the election was fixed. (See Washington State governor's race 2004, 2006 Virginia and Montana Senate races.)

Second, the mere fact that there are undervotes in a race does not mean that the election is "being stolen" by the voting machines. Example: In the recent race for the Grossmont Union High School District Board -- where my father won one of three seats up for grabs -- some people were encouraging voters to "power vote" for just one candidate. Since three seats were up for grabs, this tactic would result in two undervotes in that race. Of course, those two undervotes were conscious choices by the voter.

Finally, there is this worrying possiblity.

This week, Florida election officials began auditing the voting machines, which is the very thorough and transparent process for determining whether they worked properly on Election Day. There is still no evidence that the machines malfunctioned.

But never mind. Speaker-in-waiting Nancy Pelosi allowed Ms. Jennings to vote in House leadership elections last month, and Democrats could attempt to disallow the Florida certification and vote to seat Ms. Jennings in January unless a new election is granted. Democrats did precisely that in a contested Indiana House race 20 years ago when they last held Congress.

I'd be curious to hear the process by which the Democrats would "declare" Jennings the victor in this case and how it was done 20 years ago. It would also be interesting to see how the old media covers the issue if it finally comes to something like this.

Of course, this may also raise another inherent problem in the GOP -- a failure to play hardball. With the situation as it currently stands, if the Democrats seat Jennings, then I fully expect the GOP to bring Congress to a standstill.

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