Thursday, May 03, 2007


Congress orders investigation of Sarasota voting machines

A task force of the Committee on House Administration voted yesterday to investigate the possibility of voting machine errors in the election in Sarasota, Florida, that resulted in a win for Republican Vern Buchanan by 369 votes.

The election used touchscreen equipment, and the cause for concern is that some 18,000 votes in the congressional race were not recorded—an "undervote." Whether this occurred because of machine error, voter error or voter intention hasn't been established. But in reality it's unthinkable that so many people troubled themselves to vote and then intentionally failed to select a candidate in the congressional election.

The Democratic candidate Christine Jennings asked to inspect the source code of the voting machines, but was refused by a state court. Her case has now moved to a Florida appellate court, where it has remained for three months. Well, you know how that goes....

Bill Adair writes

Task force members said the Florida courts were moving too slowly and that Congress had an obligation to conduct a speedy review and settle the dispute.

"There's no indication the courts are going to act - they have not acted yet, " said Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., a member of the panel. She noted that House members serve a two-year term but the dispute has already taken six months.

The task force asked the non-partisan Government Accountability Office to conduct the investigation and examine the possibility of software or hardware problems.

The decision to place the investigation in the hands of the GAO apparently won over the Republican member of the committee—

California Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the lone Republican on the panel, voted against the investigation because he said there was insufficient evidence of problems with the election. But after the meeting, he said he was satisfied that the Democrats were proceeding fairly.

"I feel pretty positive about this, " he said.

Christine Grimaldi adds that

The task force wants the investigation to be completed in 45 days.

Jennings' attorney, Sam Hirsch [expressed] confidence in GAO supervision.

"The fact that they're going to do a unified look at the hardware and the software and how the two interact means this is just a quantum leap forward..." Hirsch said.

But Mark K. Matthews of the Orlando Sentinel has a different take on the timing—

Today, that task force asked the Government Accountability Office to thoroughly investigate the accuracy of the voting machines in the District 13 race. The investigation will take at least 45 days, and likely longer.

But he adds one interesting thought—

If GAO does conclude the election was flawed, Congress has a wide range of options, including ordering another election.

In the electronic-voting rip-off, this is some of the best news I've heard.

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