Second Member of State-Convened Investigative Panel Charged With Having 'Vested Interested' in Demonstrating That the Failed ES&S Touch-Screen Voting Systems 'Functioned Properly'...
By Brad Friedman on 11/22/2006, 1:19pm PT  

Sarasota's Herald-Tribune has emerged as the bible of local, and in-depth, coverage in the FL-13 undervote fiasco. Today, however, the Orlando Sentinel published the results of an audit of "records of 17,846 touch-screen ballots that included no vote in the tightly contested 13th District congressional race to determine whom voters selected in other major races." They find that those ballots strongly favored the Democrats:

The group of nearly 18,000 voters that registered no choice in Sarasota's disputed congressional election solidly backed Democratic candidates in all five of Florida's statewide races, an Orlando Sentinel analysis of ballot data shows.

Among these voters, even the weakest Democrat --- agriculture-commissioner candidate Eric Copeland --- outpaced a much-better-known Republican incumbent by 551 votes.

The trend, which continues up the ticket to the race for governor and U.S. Senate, suggests that if votes were truly cast and lost --- as Democrat Christine Jennings maintains --- they were votes that likely cost her the congressional election.

The Herald-Tribune editorial board today correctly writes that "Jennings Should Not Concede" as they argue there is "too much room for doubt about election's true outcome."

And finally, for the moment, one of the groups involved in the voter lawsuit --- which calls for an investigation and a revote in the election where 18,000 votes went "missing" with the margin between the two leading candidates at just below 400 votes --- charges that the state-convened audit committee is cooked (no suprise, this is Florida after all). In a news release sent to us moments ago, and posted in full below, People for the American Way reports that committee member David Drury, the man responsible for certifying voting machines for the state of Florida, clearly has "a vested interest in finding that the [paperless ES&S touchscreen machines used in FL-13, which] he certified functioned properly." Additionally, the PFAW release points out, Drury is also responsible for approving the shipment and "illegal distribution" of uncertified voting machines to the state of Florida.

Oh, and Sarasota County's Supervisor of Elections, Kathy Dent, has still not resigned. Just thought we'd mention that.

The complete PFAW press release follows in full below...

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
November 22, 2006

CONTACT:
Nick Berning or Josh Glasstetter at 202-467-4999 / media@pfaw.org

More Questions Arise About Competence and Impartiality of Sarasota Voting Machine Auditors

One member of the auditing team, Bureau of Voting Systems Certification chief David Drury, previously authorized the illegal distribution of uncertified voting machines in Florida

SARASOTA COUNTY—Doubts are arising about a second member of the team assembled to audit the voting machines implicated in Sarasota County’s massive 13th Congressional District election undervote.

Audit team member David Drury is in charge of voting machine certification for the state and has a vested interest in finding that the machines he certified functioned properly. Additionally, according to a complaint filed by the Florida Fair Elections Coalition, questions about Drury’s competence have been raised by his decision earlier this year to authorize the illegal distribution of uncertified voting machines.

Drury is the second person whose participation in the audit raises concerns about conflict of interest. Last week, PFAW Foundation criticized the selection of Alec Yasinsac—a political partisan and avowed opponent of voting machine paper trails—to help lead the state’s audit.

“What we’ve learned about the members of this audit team is deeply troubling,” said PFAW Foundation Legal Director Elliot Mincberg. “Floridians deserve an impartial audit that will get to the bottom of this mess. Instead, they’re getting a biased and potentially incompetent investigation. We agree with the editorial board of the Palm Beach Post that more credibility is needed in this audit so we can all find out what went wrong with these machines.”

The problems presented by Drury’s appointment to the audit team are twofold. First, Drury, who is the chief of the Florida Bureau of Voting Systems Certification, certified the machines in question. More troubling, according to the Florida Fair Elections Coalition complaint, earlier this year, Drury provided a letter to a voting machine manufacturer giving it permission to ship uncertified voting machines to its Florida customers, but Florida law clearly requires all machines to be certified.

“Drury’s the guy who said the machines were okay to use in the first place, and now he’s being asked to investigate himself?” Mincberg asked. “It just doesn’t make sense. And that’s before you even get to the questions raised by his decision to tell one machine manufacturer that it could ignore the law and send out uncertified machines. Voters deserve better.”

In addition to PFAW Foundation, the ACLU of Florida has expressed concern about the decision to involve Yasinsac in the audit. And today, the Palm Beach Post weighed in with an editorial calling for a more “credible” and “impartial” audit (you can read that editorial here).

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CORRECTION: We originally attributed the audit of ballots in FL-13's five counties to the Herald-Tribune instead of to Orlando Sentinel. We've corrected that point in the story above. The BRAD BLOG regrets the error.