PFAW Foundation Asks for Investigation into Massive Undercount in Florida Congressional Race

PFAWF Urges Voters Who "Missed" Congressional Race to Come Forward

People For the American Way Foundation (PFAWF) today urged Florida Secretary of State Sue Cobb and Attorney General and Governor-elect Charlie Crist to launch an independent, nonpartisan probe into a reported 18,000 vote undercount in the election for Florida’s 13th Congressional District, where less than 400 votes currently separate the race. At the same time, PFAWF urged voters who believe they were denied the opportunity to vote in the race to come forward.

Republican Vern Buchanan currently has 368 more votes than Democrat Christine Jennings in the race to replace Katherine Harris. Numerous voters in Sarasota County have reported that when the summary screen appeared on some of the county’s Election Systems & Software voting machines, no vote had been recorded. Some voters were able to go back and record a vote, but others suspect they were never given a meaningful opportunity to cast a vote in that race.

“Something went terribly wrong in Sarasota County. It appears that thousands of voters were effectively denied the right to vote—or to have their vote recorded—in a congressional race where the margin between the two candidates is less than 400 votes,” said Ralph G. Neas, PFAWF president. “Even worse, county officials knew before the election that there was a problem.”

The Sarasota Herald Tribune reports that prior to the election, Sarasota County Supervisor of Elections Kathy Dent sent notices to her poll workers that the District 13 race was easy to miss. The undercount did not occur in other races in Sarasota County. Absentee ballots, which are cast on paper instead of the machine, did not record a similar lack of votes in the congressional race. Other counties in the same congressional district—which used different voting equipment—did not see the same massive undercount in the congressional race.

“It seems clear that some sort of flaw in the voting machines, perhaps in their design or the graphic presentation on the screen, effectively robbed thousands of voters of their right to cast a vote in this race. That’s wrong no matter what the margin, but in such a closely fought contest, it’s clear that the undervotes could have determined a different outcome,” said Neas. “We want to hear from voters who think they may have been denied the opportunity to vote.”

Neas urged disenfranchised voters to call PFAWF at 1.800.326.7329 and contact Judith Schaeffer. He noted that callers from Sarasota County had already logged complaints about the problem to a voter hotline run by the Election Protection Coalition, a joint project of PFAWF, the Lawyers Committee on Civil Rights Under Law, and the NAACP.

An article about this problem in today’s Sarasota Herald-Tribune is available here.

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