A Leon County judge on Friday nearly derailed Christine Jennings' long-shot bid for Congress, ruling that the Southwest Florida Democrat has no right to inspect the secret software used in electronic voting machines in Sarasota County.
The tersely worded decision by Circuit Judge William Gary is a major blow because Jennings contends in a lawsuit that the ATM-styled machines used in Sarasota malfunctioned and cost her the votes that would have propelled her to victory in November.
ES&S, the company that makes the voting machines as well as ones used in Broward and Miami-Dade counties, says the machines did not malfunction and that the software is a trade secret.
''It's shocking that there is more concern for protecting a company's profits rather than protecting our right to vote,'' said Jennings, who said she would appeal the ruling. ``The secrecy and question marks surrounding electronic voting is creating a real crisis in confidence among America's voters, and the only way to resolve this is by conducting a thorough review by outside experts.''
Friday's ruling came hours after House Democratic leaders in Washington announced that they would allow Republican Vern Buchanan, who beat Jennings by 369 votes, to be seated when Congress reconvenes next week. Despite what happens in the courts, Congress has the ultimate power to decide who can be seated.
A spokesman for incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said seating Buchanan, while officially recognizing the election is contested, is 'the best way to assure continuous representation for the district while Jennings' appropriate challenges are running their course.'' Spokesman Drew Hammill said Pelosi and the Democratic caucus wouldn't back a move to refuse to seat Buchanan, as Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean had suggested. Instead, there will be a ''formal inquiry'' into what went wrong in the race, leaving open the possibility that Congress still could order a new election. Read on...