By Lee Russ, Section OpEd
Perhaps this is the time that our official government structure will have to acknowledge the serious problem of record-less electronic voting?
A loser by 369 votes on election night, the Democratic candidate to replace Katherine Harris in the House of Representatives,Christine Jennings, has filed an official challenge to the election results. She seeks a ew election, based on "statistical and eyewitness evidence that touch-screen voting machines had malfunctioned in Sarasota County."
The challenge to the results in the 13th Congressional District is based on the fact that some 17,000 voters in a single county , Sarasota, mysteriously failed to vote for either candidate in that race, an "undervote" rate that the court papers describe as "nearly 16 times higher than in the other District 13 counties or on Sarasota's paper absentee ballots." And as note before on WTW, Jennings won that county 53-47 mong voters who did register a choice on that race.
Assuming that Jennings would receive the same 6% majority of the missing 17,000 votes, she would have gained 1,020 votes, almost 3 times as many as needed to win.
Unless dismissed on a technicality, the suit should force the court to confront the realities of electronic voting without paper backup records. A manual "recount" was completed before filing of this suit, but of course the recount was virtually meaningless as far as the undervote goes--you can't "recount" what isn't there.
My guess is that the court will decide that the statistical and first hand anecdotal evidence is insufficient to show that the original election was defective. Even that will force the powers that be to confront the issue, and I'd expect an appeal of any such ruling on the evidence.
The point to keep in mind is that to date very little has been determined as to what standard of evidence is required to show voting improprieties of this kind. Is statistical evidence alone enough? If so, how convincing does it need to be? What weight can/should be given to first person accounts of voters?
At the very least, the case should exert further pressure for a verifiable paper trail just to avoid future cases like this. No court in its right judicial mind wants to be in a position of deciding which voters voted for which candidates (except SCOTUS, of course), and the only way to keep the courts out of it is to give the officials in the election process the tools needed to ascertain voter intent.
As for the statistical evidence, assuming that the court papers prove to be accurate, it's pretty hard to explain why 17,000 voters opted out of voting in a U.S. House race, and even harder to explain why one county would have an undervote that much larger than in all the surrounding counties.
The stink is there; now someone needs to find the rotting carcass from which it emanates.
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