Statement on the Provisional Seating of Vern Buchanan

Court proceedings and congressional investiation must be complete and election problems remedied before anyone is seated permanently; Florida debacle a 'teachable moment' demonstrating need for national election reform

WASHINGTON, D.C.—In response to Congress' provisional seating of Vern Buchanan today to represent Florida's 13th District, People For the American Way Foundation President Ralph G. Neas released the following statement:

“The congressional leadership has made clear that the seating of Vern Buchanan as Congressman for Florida’s 13th District is provisional, lasting only until the controversy swirling around the election in Sarasota County is resolved by the courts and by a congressional investigation. We commend the congressional leadership, and especially Congressman Rush Holt, for recognizing the gravity of Sarasota’s election problems and for giving its voters reason to believe that they may yet be represented by someone they know they elected.

“Real and serious doubt has been cast on the election in Sarasota. Indeed, experts from opposite sides in the litigation agree flaws in the election actually reversed the outcome, and that the election would probably have gone to candidate Christine Jennings had the election been properly administered. No matter which candidate ultimately wins and is permanently seated, however, it is crucial that the voters know that the votes of all voters are recorded and counted.

“Many voters have provided firsthand accounts of malfunctioning voting machines and disappearing votes. Only after court proceedings and a congressional investigation seeking answers about the Sarasota undervote have run their course, and only after Sarasota's election problems have been remedied, should someone be permanently seated.

“In addition, this is a teachable moment. 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, and the attention focused on the Sarasota debacle can and should help members of Congress make the case for nationwide election reform. The problems in Sarasota have been widely reported because the congressional race there was so close—yet voting problems were rampant across the country in 2006. Congress must enact election reform this year in order to prevent similar problems in 2008.”

People For the American Way Foundation is one of the nonpartisan organizations representing Sarasota County voters in a lawsuit seeking a revote. PFAW Foundation was on the ground in Sarasota immediately after Election Day working to call the public's attention to the undervote, and PFAW Foundation continues to advocate for state and national election reform to prevent similar problems from happening in the future.

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