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New Ruling: Dem Jennings Moves Forward In Push For Congressional Seat Held By GOP's Buchanan...

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Democrat Christine Jennings has new reason to hope she may still be seated in the 110th Congress after a Florida court ruled in her favor yesterday, denying a motion that would have ended her appeal for a new election in Katherine Harris's old district in Sarasota.

But the race -- and Jennings's legal case -- is far from decided.

Her appeal is based on widespread complaints that electronic voting machines in Sarasota County failed to record thousands of votes in the race. The official count shows Jennings losing to her Republican opponent, Vern Buchanan, who has been sworn in provisionally, by 369 votes.

According to the official tally, 15 percent of those who turned out on Election Day chose to skip over the Congressional race. But hundreds of voters reported that though they tried repeatedly, they could not get the touch screen voting machines to register a vote in that one race.

Earlier, a Florida circuit judge had denied Jennings's access to the voting machines, citing privacy concerns for the manufacturer, Election Systems & Software. She appealed that ruling, and the district appeals court yesterday dismissed a motion that her appeal be denied, which means that the case can now go forward: "It's a good sign they're open to considering it," said Jennings campaign spokesman David Kochman. "It would have been a tough hit if we had lost it."

A new report from electronic voting experts casts doubt on Florida's official position, which is that it was poor ballot design that led to the undervote. The authors of the report, David Dill of Stanford University and Walter Mebane of Cornell University, wrote that "a very strong statistical link between a specific error message in the machine's event log and a high undervote rate on that machine may be an indication of a mechanical cause of high undervotes."

And former Democratic Indiana Congressman Lee Hamilton, co-chair of the Iraq Study Group, also weighed in yesterday, writing in an op-ed published in the Missouri Valley Times that, "As the 110th Congress convened January 4, its members had only to look around them to be reminded of an issue they should be addressing this session. Indeed, they could look this reminder right in the face: His name is Vern Buchanan."

"The questions over whether the computerized voting machines in Sarasota County operated properly are yet another reminder of a serious problem that our representative government faces and that Congress needs to address: Our voting system is fragile and desperately in need of shoring up," Hamilton wrote. "Ever since the 2000 presidential election recount in Florida, Americans have been aware that the systems by which we record, tally and verify votes don't always work. Yet there seems to be no great sense of urgency, either among the public or in Congress, about making sure we fix thing right now. This puzzles me. If elections are defective, our entire system is at risk."

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