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Jennings Decision Close

December 20th, 2006 by Mike Vasilinda

Lawyers for the company that makes the touchscreen voting machines used in Sarasota County say it was the Supervisor of Elections fault, not their machines, that led to 18 thousand undervotes in the disputed District 13 congressional race. Today was the second day of testimony in candidate Christine Jennings’ lawsuit to get a look at the machines’ secret source code. As Victoria Langley tells us, the dispute is now reaching all the way to Washington.

Hear the story here: vicpkg1220.mp3

The courtroom felt more like a college classroom as Dartmouth professor Michael Herron explained his theory of what went wrong in Sarasota County’s congressional election. Herron said voters skipped the District 13 race by accident because it was on the same page as the governor’s race. He blamed their confusion on a bad ballot design. “The only evidence I’ve seen to explain that is ballot format effect.”

Democrat Christine Jennings is behind Republican Vern Buchanan by just 369 votes. Her attorneys blame machine error for the nearly 18-thousand undervotes in the race, and say she would have won if the machines worked properly. But voting machine manufacturer ES & S is fighting Jennings’ effort to take a look at the machines’ secret source code. They blame the ballot designed by Sarasota County’s elections supervisor.

Jennings attorneys argue flawed ballot design or not, the bottom line is elections officials had a chance to fix the problem before Election Day, and did not.

Attorney Reggie Mitchell says voters deserve a new election. “Whether they’re able, disabled, educated, uneducated, confused or not confused, it should be simple enough that if I want to vote for the candidate, that’s the way my vote should register.”

Christine Jennings isn’t waiting for the ruling. She’s in Washington formally asking Congress not to seat Vern Buchanan without an independent investigation.

The judge in Jennings’ Florida case ordered attorneys to complete their legal briefs by Friday at noon. He’s expected to rule shortly thereafter.

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