Common Cause calls for investigation into 18,000 lost votes

Sarasota County Election Should Not Be Certified

Common Cause is calling for an independent investigation into the alarmingly high number of missing votes in the District 13 Congressional race in Sarasota County, Florida. More than 18,000 voters — nearly 13 percent of those who showed up at the polls — cast votes in other races but not the closely contested House race between Democrat Christine Jennings and Republican Vern Buchanan. It represents a massive undercount compared to other counties, including Manatee, which reported an undercount of 2 percent.

“Sarasota County election officials must conduct a revote,” said Ben Wilcox, executive director of Common Cause’s Florida office. “The machines should be impounded, audited and tested to determine if voters were unable to cast a ballot and why. A 13 percent undercount is unacceptable and this election should not be certified. Sarasota County voters deserve an explanation.”

“This high undervote rate is statistically improbable,” said Wilcox. In 2004, according to a report released this summer by the Brennan Center for Justice, the residual vote rate for these machines in “top of the ticket races,” such as President was 0.7 percent. And the residual vote rate for “bottom of the ticket races,” such as ballot initiatives, was only 6.7 percent. “This race is twice as high,” Wilcox said. “And it’s a top ticket race. Something clearly went wrong. To certify this election would make a mockery of democracy.”

Common Cause is a member of the MyVote1 Consortium, a broad array of nonpartisan policy and grassroots organizations, each committed to assisting voters and improving our electoral system. Common Cause collected and analyzed data on election irregularities from voters including complaint messages from calls to the MyVote1 phone line. There were reports from concerned voters in Sarasota County who said that Jennings’ name did not show up on the ballot summary after people had voted for her. The data Common Cause gathered will help formulate post-election policy recommendations to state elections officials and reform-minded leaders and will lay the groundwork for Common Cause’s campaign for election reform,