Thursday, November 9, 2006

Still catty about Katie

Malcolm can be moody, but a sure way to cheer him is to mention the continuing calamities of Kate.

He last addressed the topic of Katherine Harris on 6th September under the heading of The joys of watching a road-crash.

The story so far (with help jacked from Greg Palast's post, see left):

A distinguished career, in the train of Governor Jeb Bush, involved spending freely on her travels and image (including, it has been rudely suggested, her bosom) on behalf of the Sunshine State. Katherine (as Secretary of State) had the task of fixing the Florida 2000 Presidential vote. The rest of that episode is history (or it will be on 20 January 2009).

Meanwhile, still upwardly mobile, Katherine went to Congress as Representative for the Florida 13th. This is Sarasota, previously safe Republican country. Katherine took the seat by a comfortable 10% margin in 2002 and 2004. By 2006 Katherine set her heart on the Republican candidature for the Senate. Nothing could dissuade her, and Jeb Bush could not roust out an alternative. She was a disaster from the start of the campaign, serially mislaying campaign managers. Last Tuesday, she hit the wall, and lost 61-39 (it could have been worse: one poll had her down to 29%).

Her curse lingers on.

The House seat she vacated was predicted to go Democrat. It didn't. The Republican Vern Buchanan squeaked home by 373 votes (0.2%) over Democrat Christine Jennings. There is a statutory recount because the margin is less than half-a-percent.

However, in this district 18,000 votes went missing, mainly in the area strongest for Jennings. Put that another way: 13% fewer voters chose to exercise their suffrage over the House seat than for all the other choices on the ballot paper. Curious that.

Malcolm reminds us that Ms Harris, as Secretary of State, was the instigator of the revised Florida voting system. No more hanging chads. The State law was changed, on her advice, to use touch-screen or optical-scanning technology. Here's CNN, taking from AP:
If the machine tallies find a margin of less than a quarter percent, a manual recount is conducted.

To do a manual recount for touch-screens, officials go back over the images of the electronic ballots where the machine didn't register a choice. But state rules essentially say that if the machine doesn't show that a voter chose a candidate, the voter is assumed to have meant to skip the race -- it would be tough to prove otherwise.

Many of us, Malcolm suspects, would quote Marx on tragedy and farce at this point. Fair enough, except (as Malcolm points out) former-President James Madison admirably got there first, in 1822:

A popular Government without popular information or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a farce or a Tragedy or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance, and a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power knowledge gives.

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