How important is it to count every vote and to perfect voting systems? Just ask Christine Jennings, whose 2006 “loss” to Vern Buchanan by a few hundred votes was the direct result of thousands of ballots being spoiled or disappearing in Democratic-leaning areas of Sarasota. More voters cast ballots for Hospital Board in these precincts than for Congress, an illogical impossibility if viewed through an objective lens.
Congressman Buchanan owes his seat in Congress largely due to faulty voting systems and the unwillingness of the National Democratic Party’s new majority to really fight to ensure every vote counted. He appears to have held his seat since through various forms of fraud. CNN’s investigation should have a devastating affect on Buchanan’s continued congressional service, but he is simply a poster child for a greater problem.
Make no mistake about it. Vern Buchanan is proof positive of what happens if progressives are not vigilant about protecting Florida’s Democratic institutions. Having taken his seat in Congress without the type of protests and scrutiny that would have ensued had a Democrat won under similar circumstances (The Democrats in 1984 seated an Indiana Congressman that had clearly lost an election, and that was one of the rallying cries that helped organize the Newt Gingrich revolution. In that case the GOP was right, the Democrats had abused power and they continued to cite that case for the following decade.) Buchanan clearly thought he was untouchable. While Jennings and many local activists in Sarasota cried foul, the Democrats, happy with their new Congressional majority and focusing on the 2008 Presidential race, shut down what was in fact simply a token investigation.
Democrats who complain about voting systems and voter fraud need to be more vigilant and ignore short term polling data. As the Republicans proved throughout the 1980s both in Florida and nationally, taking a long term view on issues and political targeting yields greater results than the short term defensive moves that characterize the Democrats. (More on this subject tomorrow)
The Republican solution to this voting dilemma is to disenfranchise voters, making American “democracy” less open and more exclusive. Ostensibly that will make counting votes easier, but does nothing to ensure voting systems work properly and that precinct workers are properly trained.
The Democrats need to be vocal and seize the moment following the Buchanan revelations. Not simply by backing Keith Fitzgerald’s candidacy against Buchanan but by making him akin to the new Tom Delay. A power hungry wealthy Republican willing to manipulate election laws in order to obtain and maintain power.
Buchanan is the poster child for why we need a more open system and why the Democrats MUST continue to push electoral reform and campaign finance reform, whatever the short term consequences.