PFAW Foundation Urges Sarasota County Not to Certify Results of Disputed Race in Florida's 13th Congressional District

Asks County to Work with State Officials for a Re-Vote as Only Effective Remedy for 18,000 Voters who ‘Missed’ the Race

The nonpartisan People For the American Way Foundation (PFAWF) today urged Sarasota County Elections Supervisor Kathy Dent not to certify the results of the race for Florida's 13th congressional district. The massive under vote in the congressional race, combined with new reports and information from voters and poll workers, indicate that approximately one-sixth of those voting were disenfranchised in that race -- voters who either cast votes that were not counted, or who missed the opportunity to vote due to a faulty ballot display on new electronic equipment.

PFAWF Florida state Director Jorge Mursuli also called on Dent to work with state election officials to find a solution that will allow county residents who voted on November 7 to return to the polls for a revote of the congressional race. A recount will begin Monday, with a certification deadline of Nov. 18.

"It makes no sense that one-sixth of the voters who cast ballots in Sarasota County would simply ignore the congressional race. Once again, Florida is the state where the voices of thousands of voters were silenced. This has got to stop. We can't trust our votes to machines that your local bank wouldn't trust to give out cash," said Mursuli.

Mursuli also said a recount is no solution.

"You can't re-count votes that because of ballot design or machine error were never cast or were never captured by the machines in the first place,” he said. "That's the wrong solution to the wrong problem."

Currently, the vote count in the race to replace Katherine Harris, the failed GOP Senate candidate, has Republican Vern Buchanan ahead of Democrat Christine Jennings by just 363 votes. The 18,000 "undervotes" in the county are obviously substantial enough that they could affect the outcome of the race, Mursuli said.

"Eighteen thousand votes is greater than the combined margin of victory in the two closest U.S. Senate races. The Montana race was decided by about 3,000 votes, and Virginia was decided by about 7,000 votes." he said. "The irony is that one of the most controversial races of 2006 is the race to replace Katherine Harris, who played such a key role in the 2000 voting fiasco in Florida. Our state is thrust into the spotlight once again."

"We can't keep blaming voters for problems they didn't cause," said Mursuli. "We've had ballots that turned elderly Jewish voters into Pat Buchanan supporters, purges that wrongly knocked African American voters off the registration list, and now, Sarasota voters prevented from helping to choose their member of Congress. At what point do our state officials take full responsibility for making elections work in Florida?"

PFAWF has heard from dozens of voters and poll workers during the past two days about the irregularities in Sarasota County in early voting and on Election Day. Citizens report voting in the congressional race, but not seeing their choice in that race on the summary screen, while others report missing the race as they went through the ballot on the iVotronic machines . The Sarasota Herald Tribune has written extensively on the problem.

Now the Orlando Sentinel has reported similar problems with the same voting system in Sumter, Lee and Charlotte counties, where the undervote totals in the race for Attorney General were even larger than the discrepancies in Sarasota. Further analysis and investigation of the problem in any county using the machines is required.

Mursuli urged disenfranchised voters to call PFAWF at 1.800.326.7329 and contact Judith Schaeffer with additional reports.

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