Jennings will be Tauscher SOTU guest

The Democratic candidate who is contesting the result in Florida’s 13th district will be Rep. Ellen Tauscher’s (D-Calif.) guest at President Bush’s State of the Union address tonight.

Christine Jennings, who lost by 369 votes and is suing in Florida court to re-do the election, has frequented Capitol Hill in the months since now-Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.) was declared the winner. She is back this week and has accepted Tauscher’s invitation to the president’s address.

Each member of Congress is allowed to bring one guest to the State of the Union.

“I have invited Christine to attend the State of the Union because she should have a seat in Congress. Period,” Tauscher said in a statement.

Past protest guests include anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan, who was the guest of Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.) last year. Sheehan was arrested before the speech when she revealed a shirt that said “2,245 Dead. How many more?” Charges were later dropped.

Jennings is contending that malfunctioning electronic touch-screen voting machines in Sarasota County are to blame for an abnormally high number of undervotes, or ballots that didn’t include a vote in the congressional race. Without the undervote, she says, she would have won.

“Election reform will be an important issue during this session of Congress, not just for the voters of Sarasota, but for the entire nation,” Jennings said. “We must end the crisis of confidence that surrounds our voting systems, and Rep. Tauscher is a true leader on this issue.”

Jennings’s case was dealt a blow just before the new year when a Florida judge ruled that she had no right to obtain the secret source codes used by the electronic voting machine company so she can examine the machines.

She is appealing that decision and has also contested the result with the House Administration Committee. The committee is awaiting word from the state courts, though Chairwoman Juanita Millender-McDonald (D-Calif.) sent a letter urging the appeals court to grant Jennings access to the source codes.

Buchanan was seated provisionally earlier this month, meaning the House recognized the result is still being contested and reserves its ability to remove him.

Buchanan’s office didn’t comment by press time.