Wednesday, 22 November 2006 00:00
Voters File SuitWritten by WGCU Newsroom
Voters from Sarasota County are filing suit in state court in Tallahassee, asking for a revote in Florida’s 13th congressional district.
The lawsuit alleges that thousands of citizens were disenfranchised when massive under votes plagued the tight Congressional race between Democrat Christine Jennings and Republican Vern Buchanan. In a high-profile battle over former Representative Katherine Harris' seat, the result was decided by 363 votes. But more than 18,000 ballots cast on Sarasota County's e-voting machines registered no vote in the race.
The lawsuit is being filed by a group of bipartisan Sarasota County voters. The voters are represented by election advocacy groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida. ACLU of Florida Executive Director Howard Simon stresses the lawsuit is not about the winner or loser.
“Our concern is not the concern of the candidate but the concern of thousands of voters who were disenfranchised. I mean I have to say this election was an election that apparently was decided more by faulty voting machines than by the voters. The issue is that you can’t pretend to have a democracy and disenfranchise over 18,000 voters.”
Officials say at this point holding a new election is the only appropriate option.
The suit is being filed under a Florida law that lets voters contest an election based on misconduct by election officials or on evidence that legal votes were rejected in sufficient numbers to place the outcome of the election in doubt.
A bipartisan group of Sarasota County voters is suing the state to force a new election for the 13th congressional seat.
The voters’ lawsuit cites misconduct of election officials, including the failure of Sarasota’s Supervisor of Elections to adequately investigate, identify or report equipment or software malfunctions or ballot layout errors in the touch screen voting machines. Voters and poll workers filed complaints about the machines during the two week period of early voting.
The voters are represented by various groups, including the ACLU. Director Howard Simon says this problem is even worse that the ill-designed Palm Beach county ballots in the 2000 election debacle.
“We have never had such a massive disenfranchisement problem for those who showed up on election day as 18,000 voters just in Sarasota county alone. And I want to say this is not something that should have come as a surprise to anybody. State and local election officials should have seen it coming. They were warned. We warned them years ago.”
On Monday, the Florida Elections Canvassing Commission certified Vern Buchanan as the winner of the Congressional District 13 race by 363 votes, despite the fact that electronic ballots cast by more than 18,000 people in Sarasota County showed no vote for either candidate in a high profile congressional race.