Anger is spreading across Florida that once again, as in the 2000 election, vote theft has put the wrong candidate in office in Washington.

Wealthy Republican businessman Vern Buchanan has been certified as winner over Democrat Christine Jennings in the race for Florida’s 13th Congressional District. Buchanan’s margin of victory was less than 400 votes, clouded by the disappearance of 18,000 “under-votes,” mainly in Sarasota where Jennings expected to win by a wide margin.

An analysis by the Orlando Sun showed that the under-vote ballots were marked overwhelmingly for the Democrats running for statewide office. Many voters complained after voting Nov. 7 that Jennings’ name did not appear on their ballots.

Tony Fransetta, president of the 117,000-member Florida Alliance of Retired Americans, told the World in a phone interview, “Those 18,000 under-votes proves there is legitimacy to our demand for a verifiable paper trail on all voting machines.”

Republicans benefit from these so-called “computer glitches” that sharply reduce Democratic vote totals. “That’s why the Republican governor and Republican-controlled Legislature has yet to do anything about these under-votes,” Fransetta said. “They position themselves on the side of ‘every vote counts,’ but they don’t practice it. Those 18,000 missing votes in Katherine Harris’ old district prove it. She is the one who ordered a halt to counting the votes in 2000. She put Bush in the White House.”

As Florida’s secretary of state in 2000, Harris ordered a halt to the vote count, handing the presidency to George W. Bush. She gave up the 13th CD House seat she won two years ago to run against incumbent Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson. Nelson trounced her in the Nov. 7 election.

Jennings has filed a lawsuit against the outcome. But the electronic voting machines manufactured by Election Systems and Software (ESS) produce no verifiable paper trail, making it difficult for Jennings to prove that she was the real winner.

Bev Harris, founder of the ballot protection group Black Box Voting, based in Renton, Wash., reacted angrily to the case. “Call this by the proper name,” she told the World. “It was not a ‘computer glitch.’ It was disenfranchisement of 18,000 Florida voters, plain and simple. Whether it was intentional or not, that is unacceptable.”

She said Black Box Voting has tracked similar cases involving ESS machines during the midterm elections in Texas and Arkansas.

Fransetta and two Palm Beach County commissioners filed a lawsuit asking the court to order that all voting machines in the county provide a paper trail of the vote results. The former Palm Beach County elections supervisor, Theresa LaPore, won notoriety for certifying Bush as winner of Palm Beach County in the stolen 2000 election.

Even so, the progressive movement in Florida is celebrating Harris’ defeat and the ouster of Republican Reps. E. Clay Shaw (defeated by Democrat Ron Klein) and Mark Foley (replaced by liberal Democrat Tim Mahoney).

“We are concentrating on winning passage of the Medicare for All bill in the new Congress,” Fransetta said. “We are seeking the endorsement of this bill by every Democrat in the Florida delegation. It just makes sense: take an existing health care program and extend it to cover everyone.”

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