No Machine Politics in Florida Congressional Race, Times Admits

The Times turns around on allegations of voting machine malfunction in a disputed Congressional race in Florida won by a Republican.

The Congressional election in Florida's 13th district, narrowly won by the Republican candidate and then held up as a mini-cause celebre by Democrats alleging voter machine malfunction (in an echo ofthe vote fraud allegations of 2000 and 2004), has ended with a whimper, reported Christopher Drew on Saturday ("Panel Cites Voter Error, Not Software, in Loss of Votes").

The Times reported: "Florida election officials announced yesterday that an examination of voting software did not find any malfunctions that could have caused up to 18,000 votes to be lost in a disputed Congressional race in Sarasota County, and they suggested that voter confusion over a poor ballot design was mainly to blame."

That contradicts the Times reporting from earlier this month, in which Drew cowrote an article with this dubious line suggesting the voting machines were to blame: "In Sarasota County last November, more than 18,000 voters who used touch-screen machines did not have their votes recorded in the close Congressional race between Vern Buchanan, the Republican, and Christine Jennings, the Democrat. Mr. Buchanan took office last month after a recount gave him a 369-vote victory, but Ms. Jennings has sued."

As it turned out, those 18,000 most likely didn't register a vote in the Congressional race, due to poor ballot design. Drew explained Saturday:

"The study suggested instead that the confusion over the ballot design, which had also drawn complaints from voters, probably accounted for the bulk of the problem, much as the infamous 'butterfly ballot' distorted the vote in Palm Beach County, Fla., during the 2000 presidential election.

In the Sarasota race, the names of Mr. Buchanan and Ms. Jennings were sandwiched between larger lists of candidates for the United States Senate and for governor. The House race was also squeezed in at the top of a ballot screen, and it lacked the kind of colorful headings that highlighted the other races."