Neas Calls on Congress to Fight for 18,000 Disenfranchised Sarasota County Voters

Disputed Congressional Race Shows Need for Urgent Election Reform

WASHINGTON—People For the American Way Foundation President Ralph G. Neas called on Congress today to ensure that 18,000 Sarasota County, Florida, voters are not disenfranchised.

Neas issued the following statement:

“Our top priority is to make sure 18,000 voters are not disenfranchised. People For the American Way Foundation is pursuing this goal in the courts, in the Congress, and with the American people. With so many thousands of unrecorded votes, it is our belief that the only fair solution to this problem is a revote.

“It is important for Congress to address both the legal questions at stake and the issues of fundamental fairness for these voters.

“While we have great hope that the Florida courts will side with voters in the lawsuit currently being considered, Congress has its own independent responsibility under the Constitution to investigate this matter and make sure that justice is served. Congress has a number of options it can pursue in order to protect these voters’ rights, and it is important to note that January 4 is just the beginning of this process. The election can be contested and the seat vacated regardless of who, if anyone, is initially seated.

"This is not a partisan issue. We would take this position regardless of which candidate was initially in the lead. Republicans and Democrats in Congress should work together in a bipartisan manner to schedule election reform hearings to address these problems as quickly as possible.

“The 18,000 Sarasota County citizens whose votes are missing have put a human face on the substantial flaws that remain in our election system. This is a teachable moment, which is why our affiliate, People For the American Way, is calling on Congress to pass comprehensive election reform legislation, including a mandate that voters can verify their votes in every race. And we’ve got to do it in time for the 2008 elections, so this sort of travesty never happens again.”

In this November’s congressional elections, there was a massive undervote of more than 18,000 reported in the Sarasota County portion of Florida’s 13th Congressional District. Voter reports indicate and statistical analyses suggest that problems were caused by voting machine malfunction as well as other voting system flaws. People For the American Way Foundation and its nonpartisan allies Voter Action, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the ACLU Foundation of Florida have filed suit on behalf of 11 Sarasota County voters seeking a revote. (A hearing in the lawsuit began yesterday and continues today, and the issue appears headed to Congress—to view today’s news reports from the Tampa Tribune, Sarasota Herald-Tribune, or Tallahassee Democrat, click here, here, or here.)

For more information about PFAW Foundation’s efforts in Sarasota County, click here. For more information about PFAW’s work to enact election reform, click here.

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