Thursday, January 11, 2007

Buchanan seated amid dissent: Contested result of District 13 race could result in House investigation

Sarasota Rep. Vern Buchanan on Thursday secured the pin that identifies him as a member of Congress, flashed the computerized card that permits him to cast votes in the U.S. House of Representatives and was sworn into office.

But not without a serious note of dissent - and a reminder from the Democratic-run House that it may investigate the Republican's 369-vote margin of victory and 18,000 votes that weren't cast in the congressional race in Sarasota County.

As newly elected House Speaker Nancy Pelosi prepared to swear into office the other 434 members of the House, Rep. Rush Holt, D-N.J., an advocate for paper ballots, stood amid a chorus of boos and hisses from Republicans to formally note that Buchanan's Democratic opponent, Christine Jennings, is contesting the election and has asked Congress to intervene.

'The House remains the judge of the elections of its members,' Pelosi replied from the rostrum, her tenure as speaker just minutes old. 'The seating of this member-elect is entirely without prejudice to the contest over the final right to that seat . . .'

Republicans have warned Democrats not to pursue the contested election further, and Rep. Adam Putnam, R-Bartow, rose in response, noting that Buchanan had been certified as the winner by the Florida secretary of state.

'The gentleman is correct,' Pelosi replied, and went on with the oath, dispensing, at least for a day, with an issue that Republicans say threatens to undercut her promise to approach the speakership 'in the spirit of partnership, not partisanship.'

A relieved Buchanan said he was taken aback by the reference to his seat - on a day that Democrats elected the first-ever female House speaker.

'It was a little awkward. Here it is this historical day for her and our nation's history and I get thrown in,' he said, chuckling. 'They could have finished it on a high note.'

He later posed with Pelosi for pictures at a ceremonial swearing-in, telling the California Democrat that he was 'the one you talked about from Florida District 13.

'She said, 'I know, I know,'' said Buchanan, who chatted at length with Pelosi before they both left the room to cast votes - the first in a series of votes on a rules and ethics package.

Jennings is challenging at the state level and in Congress the results of the hard-fought battle to succeed former Rep. Katherine Harris in Florida's 13th Congressional District, which includes Sarasota County as well as parts of Manatee, Charlotte, DeSoto and Hardee counties.

Democrats referred to Buchanan's seating Thursday as provisional.

December 29. 2006 5:06PM
Judge rules against Jennings, Democrats to seat Buchanan

TALLAHASSEE -- A judge ruled Friday that congressional aspirant Christine Jennings has no right to examine the programming source code that runs the electronic voting machines at the center of a disputed Southwest Florida congressional race.

Circuit Judge William Gary ruled that Jennings' arguments about the possibility of lost votes were "conjecture," and didn't warrant overriding the trade secrets of the voting machine company.

Democrats in Congress meanwhile, said they'd allow Republican Vern Buchanan to take the seat next Thursday, but with a warning that the inquiry wasn't over and that his hold on it could be temporary.

The state has certified Buchanan the winner of the District 13 race by a scant 369 votes.

The ruling Friday from Judge Gary prevents for now the Jennings camp from being able to use the programming code to try to show voting machines used in Sarasota County malfunctioned. Jennings claims that an unusually large number of undervotes _ ballots that didn't show a vote _ recorded in the race implies the machines lost the votes.

Democrats Will Allow Buchanan to Be Seated Jan. 4
Friday, Dec. 29; 1:52 pm

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