The Florida ‘race’

The Washington Times Weekly - - Editorials -

When Rep. Nancy Pelosi picks up the speaker’s gavel early next year her first or­der of busi­ness should be to ig­nore Howard Dean. The chair­man of Mrs. Pelosi’s party has stepped right into a con­tested con­gres­sional race down in Florida’s 13th Dis­trict where the de­clared win­ner, Repub­li­can Vern Buchanan, squeaked out a vic­tory over Demo­crat Chris­tine Jen­nings by a mere 349 votes.

So what is Mr. Dean’s ad­vice? The Demo­cratic-con­trolled House should deny Mr. Buchanan his seat in the new Congress with­out an­other elec­tion, he says. The House does in­deed have the right to deny any­one a seat in its cham­ber. His­tor­i­cally, how­ever, this right is re­served for races that end in near-ties. One of the most well known cases oc­curred in 1985, when the Demo­cratic-con­trolled House re­fused to seat Repub­li­can Richard McIn­tyre. Af­ter months of par­ti­san grum­bling, a Demo­cratic-con­trolled task force de­clared Mr. McIn­tyre’s Demo­cratic op­po­nent the win­ner by four votes. Many old Wash­ing­ton hands iden­tify that de­ci­sion as the be­gin­ning of the sour par­ti­san­ship that has held Wash­ing­ton in thrall for the past two decades.

Mr. Dean should know that the Buchanan- Jen­nings race doesn’t qual­ify for this kind of pro­tracted fight. Two re­counts have been con­ducted to con­firm Mr. Buchanan’s mar­gin of vic­tory. The state’s Di­vi­sion of Elec­tions just com­pleted an au­dit on the touch-screen vot­ing ma­chines used in Sara­sota County and found no ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties. But the Jen­nings camp has per­sisted in its ef­forts to get a court-or­dered spe­cial elec­tion and is even can­vass­ing Capi­tol Hill to drum up sup­port for a con­gres­sional in­quiry.

In fact, the only bit of ev­i­dence that any- thing at all was out of the or­di­nary on Elec­tion Day is the above-av­er­age num­ber of “un­der­votes” in Sara­sota County. Mrs. Jen­nings, and now Mr. Dean, point to the 18,000 un­der­votes — bal­lots cast with­out a vote in the con­gres­sional race — as evi- dence that some­thing went crim­i­nally wrong. But if it wasn’t the vot­ing ma­chines, then what was it?

Set­ting aside delu­sional con­spir­acy the­o­ries, there could be a num­ber of rea­sons. The ex­pla­na­tion that seems most log­i­cal is that in a Repub­li­can county many Repub­li­cans were less than thrilled about Mr. Buchanan. Mrs. Pelosi has a choice to make. She could ei­ther tell Mrs. Jen­nings to ac­cept the re­sults like an adult or she could fol­low Mr. Dean down his par­ti­san-rid­dled path and for­sake what­ever hon­ey­moon the Amer­i­can peo­ple are will­ing to grant the new ma­jor­ity. Even the re­li­ably lib­eral St. Petersburg Times ed­i­to­ri­al­ized that “Jen­nings should con­cede de­feat and the Demo­cratic Party should butt out.”

Mr. Dean seems to think that the Amer­i­can peo­ple are so pro-Demo­crat right now that they’ll ac­cept any ef­fort to un­seat Repub­li­cans, even if that means over­turn­ing cer­ti­fied elec­tion re­sults. We think he will find he is hor­ri­bly mis­taken.

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