- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 21, 2006

The November elections are over and the voters have spoken.

However, the outcome in Florida’s 13th Congressional District is still being contested — not due to voter fraud, but because Democrats are unhappy with the result. Republican Vern Buchanan won the election by 369 votes. A slim margin? Yes, but not the slimmest of margins and a victory nonetheless. In fact, it’s a margin more than four times as great as that in Connecticut’s 2nd Congressional District, where Republican Rob Simmons lost by only 82 votes — and appropriately conceded.

The election in Florida is being contested due to 18,000 “undervotes” in Sarasota County — 13 percent of voters in that county did not vote for either congressional candidate. After a thorough audit, the Florida Division of Elections revealed no malfunctions or abnormalities with the state’s touch-screen voting system. While an unusually high number of ballots did not have either candidate selected, the culprit was poor ballot design, not fraud or machine error.

Contesting elections is nothing new and should be used by anyone with a meritorious claim. However, Democrats seem to take inappropriate advantage of this avenue in order to undermine legitimate electoral results. Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean has curiously said the House of Representatives should “absolutely not” seat Mr. Buchanan without another election.

According to the Constitution, the House of Representatives is responsible for seating its own membership, validating congressional races run under the direction of the individual states. Florida has certified the 13th District election as being fair and that the result is not in question. This election is not too close to call, unless you are a Democrat dissatisfied with the will of the people.

Taking unfair advantage of the system, the majority party can override election results to its benefit. Looking at precedent does nothing to reassure voters. Previously, when Democrats controlled the House of Representatives in 1984, Rep. Frank McCloskey, a Democrat, faced off against Republican challenger Richard McIntyre in an election for Indiana’s 8th Congressional District. After the first count Mr. McCloskey defeated Mr. McIntyre by 72 votes. However, election officials discovered ballots in two precincts had been counted twice.

An official Indiana state recount corrected the tally and gave Mr. McIntyre a 34-vote lead. The Secretary of State certified Mr. McIntyre, the Republican, as the winner.

This is when the integrity of the election system unraveled. The Democrat-controlled House of Representatives refused to seat Mr. McIntyre. A special taskforce consisting of two Democrats and one Republican was created and conducted its own recount. It stopped counting ballots the moment Mr. McCloskey moved ahead of Mr. McIntyre and determined that Mr. McCloskey had won by four votes.

On May 1, 1985, the House of Representatives, by a partisan vote of 230-190, seated Mr. McCloskey. Fairness and integrity should be a basic component of an election system, but in 1985 it was not the case.

Ten years ago a similar situation took place, this time with Republicans in charge of the House of Representatives.

In 1996, Rep. Bob Dornan, Republican, faced off against Loretta Sanchez, Democrat, in an election for California’s 46th Congressional District. The Orange County Registrar of Voters certified that Mrs. Sanchez had beaten Dornan by 984 votes. Dornan contested the result alleging voter irregularities.

The Republican-controlled House of Representatives decided to seat Mrs. Sanchez because she had been certified the winner. A special task force, two Republicans and one Democrat, was established and found evidence of invalid votes, though not enough to give the seat to Mr. Dornan. On February 12, 1998, the House of Representatives dismissed the challenge by a vote of 378-33.

These two glaring examples of how similar situations have been handled by both parties serve as a warning for voters of things to come when Democrats take control of the House of Representatives The 2006 Buchanan-Jennings race was settled by the voters of Florida’s 13th Congressional District. That outcome should be honored by allowing Representative-elect Buchanan to take his seat.

We call on Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic leadership to live up to their rhetoric of “fairness” and state clearly to the American people that they will allow the citizens of each congressional district to determine their representatives, not simply who holds majority power.

Republican Reps. Tom Price and Tom Feeney represent Georgia’s 6th Congressional District and Florida’s 24th Congressional District respectively.

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