PROBLEMS WERE WIDESPREAD IN DISTRICT 13 CONGRESSIONAL RACE
Reporter Bob Mahlburg of the Sarasota Herald Tribune writes that an unofficial survey of Sarasota County precient officials confirms that problems were widespread that may have had a major effect on the highly unusual 13 percent undervote in the 13th Congressional District race between Democrat Christine Jennings and Republican Vern Buchanan.
Of the county's 156 precient officials, about half responded, but more than one-third of those who did say there were complaints from voters who experienced difficulty getting their votes to register or who were unable to find the congressional race.
The normal undervote for such a high profile race is less than two percent, which makes last Tuesday's 13 percent undervote a serious anomoly.
One problem seems to be the design of the ballot used.
Sarasota and Charlotte counties use the same touch screen voting machines. In some precients, they voted in the same major races: U.S. Senate, Congressional District 13, Governor, and Attorney General.
The Herald Tribune reported that Charlotte County noted a similarly large undervote in the Attorney General's race. While Sarasota County ballots paired the two candidate congressional race and the six candidate governor's race on the same screen, Charlotte County ballots had the congressional race on it's own screen and paired the AG's and governor's races on the same screen. The thought is that many voters skipped over the race on the bottom of the screen, which would have been the congressional in Sarasota County and the AG in Charlotte County.
The Jennings campaign fired the first legal savvy Tuesday, filing an emergency petition with the Circuit Court to request that all voting machinery and data be secured for possible further investigation. The state ordered recount began Tuesday, and ballots from military and overseas will possibly continue to arrive through the end of the week.
Both Jennings and Buchanan are in Washington this week for freshman orientation, the only opponents in a contested election present for a series of meetings, classes, and get-togethers to familiarize new Members of Congress with the workings of the legislative body.
Jennings' campaign Web site is encouraging contributions "to help us ensure that our next representative is chosen by the will of the people, not a glitch at the ballot box". And Buchanan is also soliciting help. One thing to note:
Contributions to the recount effort do not count toward the annual contribution maximum under Federal Law. Individuals who have already contributed to either candidate during the primary and/or general election may still contribute up to $2,100 for the recount efforts.