Jennings lawyer expects 'unprecedented' challenges in recount
Herald Tribune By DOUG SWORD 08 November 2006
Voters’ complaints that Sarasota County’s touchscreen machines did not accurately count their votes were not adequately addressed before Tuesday’s election, an attorney for Democrat Christine Jennings said.
“They were raised with the Supervisor of Elections (Kathy Dent), but based on what we saw today, the problems weren’t solved, purely and simply,” said Kendall Coffey, a Miami attorney representing the Jennings campaign.
“It’s very clear from the drastic falloff of votes reported in the 13th Congressional District in Sarasota that a lot of votes disappeared somehow,” Coffey said.
The 368-vote margin of victory for Republican Vern Buchanan is slim enough that state law requires a recount, which likely will be followed by a manual recount, he said.
Coffey said he believes there has never been a manual recount on a touchscreen voting system in Florida, which could prompt “unprecedented” legal challenges.
That could “underscore” the system’s need of a paper trail, Coffey said. “I think we heard from the voters of Sarasota County today how important a paper trail is,” he said, referring to passage of a charter amendment on Tuesday's ballot.
Four years ago, during the last gubernatorial election, between 1,000 and 2,000 voters who voted for governor, didn’t vote in the congressional race, he said, noting that this year the number appears to be around 10,000.
“My gut tells me that there were machine calibration problems that caused a lot of the votes not to be counted,” Coffey said. “A lot of very alert voters caught it when they did the check. A lot of voters didn’t catch it. That is far and away the most logical explanation for why, in effect, 9,000 or 10,000 votes seemed to disappear from the major statewide races to what was reflected in the 13th Congressional District.”
The Jennings campaign can produce 50 to 60 “documented” cases of voters believing their votes weren’t counted, he said.
“I’m quite sure we’ll be hearing from a lot more people tomorrow,” he said.
Election watchers can expect lawyers to descend on the area en masse.
“We’ve had a team of volunteers working with the (local Democratic committees), working with the Jennings campaign. I can’t project how many lawyers are going to be involved at this point,” Coffey said.
Coffey says he assumes the Buchanan campaign will be similarly involved.