Saturday, Dec 30, 2006, 5:03 pm
Gary Fineout for the Miami Herald reports that Circuit Judge William Gary ruled that Democratic candidate Christine Jennings does not have a right to inspect proprietary software used in electronic voting machines in Sarasota County, which returned a huge and inexplicable 18,000 undervote in Jenning's race against Republican Vern Buchanan.
ES&S, the company that makes the voting machines as well as ones used in Broward and Miami-Dade counties, says the machines did not malfunction and that the software is a trade secret.18,000 votes unaccounted for, and this judge isn't even remotely suspicious of malfunction, or worse. Sorta like the ''speculation'' and ''conjecture'' not ''supported by credible evidence'' argument routinely employed by the Bush administration trying to prevent investigation into a broad array of its behaviors (wire tapping, CIA intel manipulation, torture, practices by DoD, Interior Department, etc. ad infinitum).
''It's shocking that there is more concern for protecting a company's profits rather than protecting our right to vote,'' said Jennings, who said she would appeal the ruling. ``The secrecy and question marks surrounding electronic voting is creating a real crisis in confidence among America's voters, and the only way to resolve this is by conducting a thorough review by outside experts.''
Friday's ruling came hours after House Democratic leaders in Washington announced that they would allow Republican Vern Buchanan, who beat Jennings by 369 votes, to be seated when Congress reconvenes next week. Despite what happens in the courts, Congress has the ultimate power to decide who can be seated.
A spokesman for incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said seating Buchanan, while officially recognizing the election is contested, is 'the best way to assure continuous representation for the district while Jennings' appropriate challenges are running their course.'' Spokesman Drew Hammill said Pelosi and the Democratic caucus wouldn't back a move to refuse to seat Buchanan, as Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean had suggested. Instead, there will be a ''formal inquiry'' into what went wrong in the race, leaving open the possibility that Congress still could order a new election.
Jennings has filed a lawsuit in Tallahassee and a contest with the House Administration Committee, challenging the results of the hard-fought battle to succeed Katherine Harris in Florida's 13th Congressional District, which includes Sarasota County as well as parts of Manatee, Charlotte, DeSoto and Hardee.
More than 18,000 voters, or nearly 13 percent of those who showed up at the polls on Election Day, failed to cast a vote in the congressional race. While some experts have focused on the ballot design as a potential reason for the ''undervote'' in the race, Jennings has blamed the machines made by Election Systems and Software and asked for the right to have outside experts look at the ''source code,'' or software used by ES&S.
But in his ruling, Judge Gary, noting that postelection audits and tests had failed to show the machines malfunctioned, said the experts utilized by Jennings had engaged in ''speculation'' and ''conjecture'' and were not ''supported by credible evidence.''