Katherine Harris and voting irregularities just go together like PB & J. Six years after Harris, Florida's secretary of state in 2000 and currently a US Representative, certified George W. Bush as president, the vote for who will succeed her in the House is completely screwed up.
This time, electronic voting machines have lost 18,000 votes in a heavily Democratic district, the Palm Beach Post reports.
Computer science professor Rebecca Mercuri called the election an "electronic butterfly ballot," a reference to the poorly designed paper ballot that caused so much trouble in 2000.
"All the reports say that this particular race was difficult to find on the ballot. My contention is that with the electronic machines, there were no laws that prevented the touch-screen machines from creating an electronic butterfly ballot," Mercuri said.
Apparently, early voters were overlooking the congressional race because of the design of the electronic ballot. But was it just poor design or was there a hardware or software malfunction - or hack - that caused the loss of so many more votes in Sarasota County compared to other counties in the congressional district. Officials are auditing the machines.
"The audit will tell us whether something happened within the machinery itself. This is something that's extremely important to us. We want to know if there is a real problem there or it's not a real problem," Secretary of State Sue Cobb said Monday.
The audit won't be complete until after the results are certified, so the loser will have to ask for a revote. Enter lawyers.
Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher said the election results may indicate the need for a paper voting trail, but shrugged off the fact that 13 percent of those who showed up at the polls in Sarasota County failed to select either candidate. "In a race like that, that could easily happen," Gallagher, a Republican, said.
But Steve Ansolabehere, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology political science professor, said: "This seems like too high a margin for people just choosing not to vote. It's not fair to say people chose not to vote unless you have really good evidence."
He said the problem may have been caused by voter confusion or a programming error in which the votes cast on the screen were not sent to a database and therefore not tallied.