The voting machines used in the disputed congressional election in Sarasota, Fla., worked properly despite an unusually high number of blank ballots and widespread complaints that votes were lost, Florida officials said yesterday.
After conducting a test election and inspecting the computer codes running the touch-screen voting machines, the state audit concluded that "there is no evidence that the results are in error." The audit, however, suggested ballot design might have led to voter confusion in the race between Republican Vern Buchanan and Democrat Christine Jennings.
"I am confident that the race in Sarasota County was fair and accurate," said Secretary of State Kurt Browning.
Browning's assurance did nothing to appease critics who said the audit was not thorough enough.
People for the American Way President Ralph G. Neas called the investigation "a whitewash" that "papers over" evidence of widespread voting machine malfunctions.
A spokesman for Jennings, who lost to Buchanan by 369 votes, said that too few tests were run and that auditors were not allowed to inspect the machines.
"I think this report just confirms the need for a through investigation by outside experts," said David Kochman. "The report has so many parts that are missing."
Almost 18,000 electronic ballots in Sarasota County showed no choice in the closely fought 13th District Congressional race. The so-called undervote rate was about 15 percent, six times greater than in the rest of the House district.
Dozens, if not hundreds, of residents reported problems at the polls, saying that their vote did not register or that they never saw the congressional race on the electronic ballot.