Taking Pro-Democrat Talking Points as Fact

Kate Zernike runs off Democratic talking points about alleged voting irregularities in a Florida House race won by a Republican.

Reporter Kate Zernike rattles off Democratic talking points in Saturday's "House Democrats to Object to Florida Election Outcome," about the Florida House race narrowly won by Republican Vern Buchanan over Democrat Christine Jennings. House Democrats are contesting the results, citing alleged "irregularities" in "undervotes" from local electronic voting machines.

The same credulous, pro-Democrat tone was present in Terry Aguayo's initial November 21 story, which assumed partisan Democratic talking points as valid. Aguayo's story began: "A Republican House candidate was named the winner on Monday in a disputed race in Sarasota where thousands of votes may have been lost by electronic machines, and the Democratic candidate immediately sued for a new election."

Zernike opens: "Democrats said Friday that they would open the new Congress by formally objecting to the election result in Florida's 13th District, in the hope that the Democrat who is contesting the narrow outcome there will ultimately take the place of the Republican whom the state has certified as the winner."


"On Nov. 20, the Florida Elections Canvassing Commission, made up of Gov. Jeb Bush and two other Republicans, declared Mr. Buchanan the winner by 369 votes....But [Democrat Christine] Jennings, and some voters, have complained of irregularities. Paperless electronic voting machines used in the district recorded a significant percentage of what are known as 'undervotes': some 18,000 ballots, or about 15 percent of the total cast in the district, registered votes in races for other offices but not in the House contest.

"In some counties in the district, there was an undervote of 25 percent or more, [New Jersey Rep. Rush] Holt said, and in one area an undervote of 38 percent.

"In contrast, he said, the undervote among absentee ballots was only 2.5 percent."

Unlike the Times, which simply lets Democrats have their say without detailed rebuttal, journalist Byron York addresses those points in the December 31 edition of National Review.

"The only problem was, there was no evidence anything had gone wrong with the machines. As the wrangling went on, a group of three political scientists - James Honaker and Jeffrey Lewis of UCLA and Michael Herron of Dartmouth - began to look into the matter. They found no evidence of machine malfunction, either, and instead argued that the problem was most likely a confusing ballot design in Sarasota County's machines. The ballot for the 13th District was on the same screen as that for the Florida governor's race. The governor's ballot was bigger, had more candidates, and took up most of the screen, the researchers found, and that most likely distracted voters' eyes from the Buchanan-Jennings race.

"That theory was supported by the fact that in other counties, the 13th District race was given its own screen - and there was not an unusually high number of undervotes. Also, in those other counties, when two other races were packed onto the same screen, there was an increased number of undervotes. 'We conclude with what we believe is a simple and conservative implication of our main finding' the authors wrote: 'iVotronic touchscreen voting systems should not combine important races on the same voting page.'

"It was as simple as that. There was no malfunction and no sabotage."