Friday, November 24, 2006

E.J. Dionne Weighs In

Howling Latina has been howling of late about the disgraceful voting shenanigans in Sarasota County, Florida.

E.J. Dionne, Jr., pens an op-ed today in the Washington Post.

Here's the story so far: The official vote count in the battle for -- you won't believe this -- Katherine Harris's seat put Republican Vern Buchanan 369 votes ahead of Democrat Christine Jennings out of roughly 238,000 votes cast.

But in Sarasota County, there was an "undervote" of more than 18,000 -- meaning that those voters supposedly didn't choose to record votes in the Buchanan-Jennings race. Jennings carried the county 53 percent to 47 percent.

The Sarasota undervote in the congressional race amounted to nearly 15 percent. Kendall Coffey, Jennings's lawyer, has pointed out that in the other four counties in the district, the undervote ranged from 2.2 to 5.3 percent. Put another way, roughly 18,000 of the 21,000 undervotes in the contest came from Sarasota County.
Fifteen percent; let that number slowly sink in your mind.

Now, during a careful analysis of the voting, the Orlando Sentinel previously observed: "Among these voters, even the weakest Democrat -- agriculture-commissioner candidate Eric Copeland -- outpaced a much-better-known Republican incumbent by 551 votes." In other words, the vanished voters were Democrats.

As Dionne points out, just think of the nightmare if the disappearing votes had been from Big Sky Country or the commonwealth of Virginia, where a tiny margin of victory decided whether Harry Reid is to be the next Senate majority leader in the 210th Congress or not.

[I]f anyone still needs evidence that all electronic systems should provide verifiable paper trails so real ballots are available in the event of a recount, let them go to Sarasota.
For the integrity of the voting ballot and our democracy, let's hope the next Congress makes paper trails no longer optional and up to individual states but mandatory and the law of the land.

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