Ballot analysis: "Undervotes" skewed to Democratic candidates

Voters with missing votes in a Florida House race voted for Democrats up and down the ballot otherwise.

Published November 22, 2006 5:46PM (EST)

Florida elections officials say Democrat Christine Jennings lost to Republican Vern Buchanan by 369 votes in the race to replace Katherine Harris in the House. Jennings has challenged the results, pointing to nearly 18,000 electronic ballots from Sarasota County that reflect votes in other races but not in the closely contested House race.

What would those ballots show if voting machines had recorded votes properly? We may never know for sure, but the Orlando Sentinel has just produced compelling circumstantial evidence that they'd swing heavily toward Jennings -- almost certainly enough so to erase Buchanan's 369-seat margin and send her to the House.

The Sentinel examined ballot data for the 17,846 "undervotes" and found that -- when they recorded votes -- they recorded votes for Democratic candidates up and down the ticket in Florida. In the Florida governor's race, for example, Republican Charlie Crist carried Sarasota County handily. But on the "undervote" ballots, the Sentinel says, Davis' Democratic challenger led him by almost 7 percentage points. The pattern of Democatic preference held, to varying degrees, in every other race in which the "undervote" voters voted, the paper says.

Jennings has filed suit, asking a local court to declare her the winner of the election or to set a new one. Her case is now moving through the system, but the final resolution could lie with members of the House of Representatives, who will have to decide whether to accept Florida officials' certification of the election results.

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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