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The woman who refuses to admit she didn't win

Early edition

By ANITA KUMAR
Published December 11, 2006


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More than a month after the election, Christine Jennings is still fighting for a seat in Congress.

Republican Vern Buchanan led Democrat Jennings by a few hundred votes on Election Day and in subsequent recounts in the District 13 congressional race.

Jennings is challenging the result because touch screen voting machines in Sarasota County recorded that more than 18,000 people, or 13 percent of all voters, did not vote for either candidate, a rate much higher than in other counties in the district.

The state of Florida has declared Buchanan the winner, but his victory is being disputed in Leon County court and in the U.S. House by Jennings, who is asking for a revote and an examination of voting machines. It’s unclear what the House will do, but it can chose not to seat Buchanan Jan. 4 when the new Democrat-controlled Congress begins.

Jennings sat down with the St. Petersburg Times on Monday to answer some questions.

Why are you so sure that the 18,000 undervotes represent people who wanted to vote for you?

From the very beginning of early voting we had people call our office and tell us they were having problems with the machines, problems getting their votes taken and they were concerned about whether they would be counted.

Why is it so important to review the source code in the voting machines?

The source code is the DNA of the whole voting experience. … It would be as if you have a car, someone gave you the keys and you started driving and you had a problem and yet you were told, “No, you can’t go under that hood to find out what that problem is.” The source code is the key, is the DNA of the election — and we’ve got to get to it.

Isn’t there a possibility you may not win a revote?

If my opponent would win, I would absolutely wish him well and I would walk away from this and be pleased that the people have spoken. All people … I believe then that all people would have had an opportunity to vote for their representative.

How much of a problem was the ballot design?

The ballot design may have been a contributing factor, but it is not the major factor.

Are you worried about being called a sore loser?

Not at all because I can tell you I am getting e-mails, letters, all kinds of support from people across this nation, from New York to California, telling me don’t ever give up.


This is one of the last contested races in the nation. At what point do you give up?

I am not giving up until we have an answer about what happened in this race. … I’m going to keep fighting until we know we have fair elections in this country and that every vote counts in this district.
 
Some members of Congress have speculated this disputed election could tear the new House apart. What do you say to that and are you prepared to be the cause of such a thing?

I don’t understand any representative or senator that isn’t saying, “I’m concerned about the integrity of the voting system of this country.”  … It defies logic.

Have you considered the possibility that you might better serve your party by not forcing the new House speaker to wrestle with your case?


This is a responsibility that Congress has. It is exactly one of the reasons they are there.  … I am not causing anything except trying to protect the integrity of the voting system that is so precious in this country.

Who’s paying your legal costs?


We are raising money from all over the United States. People are being incredibly generous.

Do you think the federal government should pass new legislation regarding voting machines and standards?

I certainly do, and I want to be a part of working on election and campaign reform. I think both are needed in this country.

Tell me about the last time you talked to Vern Buchanan?

I think the last time I saw him was freshmen orientation. Vern and I are civil to each other, and I always will be. I would never talk about civility in politics if I wasn’t ready to set an example.

Times staff writer Anita Kumar can be reached at akumar@sptimes.com or 202-463-0576.

[Last modified December 11, 2006, 21:43:02]


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