Republican Declared Winner in Fla. House Race

Associated Press
Tuesday, November 21, 2006

TALLAHASSEE, Nov. 20 -- Florida officials certified Republican Vern Buchanan on Monday as the winner of the House seat being vacated by Rep. Katherine Harris (R). The loser immediately sued for a new election, arguing that touch-screen voting machines had malfunctioned.

Christine Jennings contested her 369-vote loss in the 13th District, asking a judge to order a new election because of problems in Sarasota County, where more than 17,000 voters who cast ballots in other races Nov. 7 did not do so in the congressional contest.

That rate is nearly six times as high as it is in the other counties in the congressional district or on Sarasota's paper absentee ballots, Jennings says. Though she lost in the four other counties in the district, she did well in Sarasota County, winning there by six percentage points.

Buchanan, a wealthy auto dealer, said that there was no evidence of machine malfunctions. He attributed the huge Sarasota undervote to angry voters turned off by negative campaigning.

"I guess the theory is if you don't win, sue," he said, urging Jennings to concede and "stop listening to the high-price lawyers and out-of-town special-interest groups."

The state is conducting an audit of the Sarasota voting machines separate from the recount and legal challenge.

In 2001, as Florida's secretary of state, Harris had pushed for an election overhaul that outlawed punch-card ballots and required counties to use touch-screen devices or optical scan machines that read paper ballots.

Meanwhile, an unofficial tally in New Mexico's 1st District shows Rep. Heather A. Wilson (R) winning her race against Patricia Madrid by 879 votes, out of more than 210,000 cast. The results were scheduled to be finalized late Monday.

Three other House races remain unresolved:

· In Ohio's 2nd District, a few counties began counting provisional and absentee ballots in the race between Rep. Jean Schmidt (R) and Victoria Wulsin. Schmidt led by about 2,800 votes, though nearly 9,000 votes could remain to be counted in the district.

· In Ohio's 15th District, Rep. Deborah Pryce (R) was ahead of Mary Jo Kilroy by more than 3,500 votes. About 19,000 ballots remain to be counted, with results expected next week.

· In North Carolina's 8th District, election officials were recounting votes that last week gave Rep. Robin Hayes (R) a 339-vote lead against Larry Kissell. Kissell is considering a hand recount.

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