FL-13 task force will turn over investigation to GAO

A special House task force voted yesterday to refer an investigation into Florida’s 13th district House race to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), and task force Chairman Charles Gonzalez (D-Texas) said he hopes to see results in as few as 45 days.

The task force voted 2–1 along party lines on a motion to move forward with the investigation, with the lone Republican, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (Calif.), dissenting. But the panel proceeded to vote unanimously on the course of the investigation after some hand-wringing over the language of the motion.

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Gonzalez said the 45-day timeframe is ambitious and that it will be up to the GAO to shape the investigation and ask for more time if needed.

“I think we just had a vote right now that acknowledges that this is a pretty good way to proceed,” Gonzalez said.
The first vote was a victory for Democrat Christine Jennings, who is contesting her 369-vote loss to Rep. Vern Buchanan (R) and says the state’s review of the election was flawed. Florida’s testing has reaffirmed the result and found no problems.
The second vote was a mixed bag, with both sides professing satisfaction at the course of the investigation but not getting exactly what they wanted.

While Buchanan’s camp and McCarthy saw no grounds for the task force to call an investigation at all, Jennings’s camp has asked for secret software codes to review the electronic voting machines using its own experts.

Jennings contends that a malfunction caused an abnormal amount of Sarasota County voters — about 18,000 — not to cast a vote in the race. She said she is thrilled with the decision of the task force, which was created in March by the House Administration Committee.

“The 18,000 people in Sarasota who lost [the right to vote] and the millions of Americans nationwide who use electronic voting machines deserve answers,” Jennings said.

In the testiest exchange of a mostly amiable hour-long meeting, McCarthy expressed his frustration over the language of the second motion, which stated that Gonzalez had the authority to approve the testing the GAO wanted to perform.
McCarthy said the entire task force should check off on the testing and was not mollified by assurances from Gonzalez and the third panel member, Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), that that would be the case.

The election contest has been a heated partisan dispute to this point, but the task force emphasizes nonpartisanship and unanimity.

“This place runs on rules, and when you look back at something, the rule says you are empowered to do this,” McCarthy said. He added that he was trying to find a way for the panel to act unanimously: “I have to be very honest with you — I don’t find this to be that.”

Gonzalez agreed to alter the language but expressed reservations about prolonging the process by involving the full task force in minutiae.

An attorney representing Buchanan, Hayden Dempsey, said that shift was important for the transparency of the investigation. He expressed tempered encouragement.

“We think having an independent government entity do the testing is probably a fair thing,” Dempsey said. “Obviously, the devil’s in the details. We’ll be watching to see who the GAO selects to assist them. The fact is that a lot of so-called experts are very partisan.”

Once the investigation is complete, the full committee and full House would have to approve any task force recommendation.

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