Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The liberal political action group yesterday began a petition drive calling for a revote in a Florida congressional election that was decided by less than 400 votes.

“In the wake of Florida’s electronic voting machine meltdown, Congress shall call for a revote and repair our nation’s elections,” says the petition that began circulating yesterday. is collecting petition signatures electronically and promises to deliver the signatures to the new Democratic House leadership by the end of this week.

However, a revote in Sarasota County’s 13th Congressional District would require that Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, deny Republican Vern Buchanan his swearing-in on Jan. 4.

“The precedent in the United States House of Representatives is to seat the certified winner of the election. Vern Buchanan is the certified winner of the election, and we fully anticipate he will be seated,” said Buchanan spokeswoman Sally Tibbets.

Mr. Buchanan has been certified by the county elections supervisor, but that result faces multiple lawsuits.

Democrat Christine Jennings, who lost the contest, has filed a lawsuit and attended freshman orientation on Capitol Hill last month at the invitation of the House Democratic leadership.

Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean last week said the contest should go to a revote. However, the St. Petersburg Times editorial board said Mr. Dean should “butt out” and that Miss Jennings should concede.

A Democratic aide who requested anonymity yesterday said Mrs. Pelosi does not plan to make any announcements on the issue this week. It is an issue that could produce severe partisan bickering in the new session’s opening days.

Miss Tibbets said Mr. Buchanan and his campaign staff “are moving ahead accordingly, hiring staff, seeking office accommodations.”

“It’s regrettable that we have this distraction,” she said.

However, Elliot Mincberg, a lawyer with the left-leaning People for the American Way Foundation (PFAW), said Mr. Buchanan could be sworn in “provisionally,” pending results of a lawsuit in a Florida court.

The lawsuit, filed by PFAW, seeks to find out how 18,000 voters “under-voted.” About 18,000 voters who cast ballots in Sarasota County did not make a choice in their congressional election. Some say this is because the machines malfunctioned or because election judges did not act quickly enough to fix glitches.

“The issue is, did something go wrong, either with the machines or the conduct of the election officials, that had an apparently significant impact on the election?” Mr. Mincberg said. “There’s very strong evidence that that happened.”

However, others say the ballot configuration could have caused voters to overlook the contest, and an initial test by the county elections supervisor found no problems with the electronic machines.

“The machines were tested twice now by the state, and they performed perfectly,” Miss Tibbets said.

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