Republicans Hit Jennings’ Call to Put Aside Her Florida Court Case

Posted May 10, 2007 at 3:27pm

House Republicans are criticizing a recent request by Christine Jennings (D) to put her court case on hold while federal auditors explore whether faulty voting equipment cost her the election in Florida’s 13th district in November.

A Jennings spokesman confirmed Thursday that lawyers for her campaign filed a motion last week to temporarily stay her case, which has been trickling through the Florida court system for months. Jennings filed her case soon after her 369-vote defeat by now-Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.). Jennings and some Democrats claim that malfunctioning electronic voting machines resulted in 18,000 “undervotes” from heavily Democratic areas.

Last week, a three-Member elections task force from the House Administration Committee, which was organized to manage the Jennings-Buchanan dispute, voted to hand the matter over to the Government Accountability Office. A GAO investigation is expected to take at least 45 days.

House Democratic leaders reluctantly seated Buchanan at the beginning of the 110th Congress, but held open the possibility of removing Buchanan and seating Jennings if evidence surfaced during her court case or the House investigation to suggest that the Democrat had actually won. But Jennings is seeking to delay the court case, for now.

“We asked for the court proceedings to be put on hold,” Jennings spokesman David Kochman confirmed on Thursday. “It’s almost six months since we filed the case and four months since we filed the appeal. It’s become clear that the best chance for a quick solution … is from the [House] task force and the [GAO].”

But freshman Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and other House Republicans claim Jennings’ move is tantamount to throwing in the towel and sidesteps a critical judicial component of the appeal process. Stalling litigation in the state court system, McCarthy suggests, may prevent crucial evidence from surfacing in a case that still has not gone to trial.

“I’m surprised that Ms. Jennings and her lawyers have suddenly decided to give up on the Florida court proceedings that she initiated,” said McCarthy, the lone Republican on the House elections task force. “There is a reason that the House has encouraged contestants to exhaust state remedies before coming to the House with a contest. By suddenly giving up on the court proceedings while awaiting a ruling, Ms. Jennings is denying the task force crucial input from the courts that we need to utilize in our own deliberations.”