"By JEREMY WALLACE
Christine Jennings' push for a new congressional election suffered another major setback in court Monday, increasing her need for Congress to step in.The 1st District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee denied Jennings' latest effort to get access to voting machine computer source code that her attorneys deem critical to her legal challenge of Republican Vern Buchanan's 369-vote margin of victory in the 13th Congressional District election.Without the source code, Jennings' legal team said they would be "crippled" in trying to prove touch-screen voting machines malfunctioned in last November's elections, costing her the victory.
Hayden Dempsey, an attorney for Buchanan, said the ruling is "devastating" for Jennings, and in all likelihood ends her legal case in Florida.But Jennings, a Democrat, dismissed the significance of the latest ruling, instead saying she was already more focused in pursuing her challenge in Congress, which has the final say on whether there will be a new election.A House panel on
Thursday approved a plan to review the 2006 election. The Government Accountability Office, the independent investigative arm of Congress, said it would submit a report in September after analyzing prior state audits of electronic voting machines and related data to determine what, if any, additional tests should be conducted.
Jennings is disputing the election results because about 13 percent of the voters who went to the polls in Sarasota County did not have a vote tallied for them in the congressional contest.Monday's setback is not the first snag Jennings has encountered in the courts.In January, a lower court ruled against her initial attempt to get access to the computer source code, saying her arguments were nothing more than "speculation and conjecture."Jennings appealed, but grew frustrated waiting for the appeals court to issue a ruling. Jennings said the wait has been the most troubling aspect of her legal case.She said, given the fact that there are questions about people's votes, she expected the courts to move much quicker."What surprises me most is how many months it has been," Jennings said.It has been so long that, in May, Jennings asked the court to put the brakes on her court challenge while she instead focused on Congress.Despite the court ruling, Congress will continue with its inquiry into the dispute. U.S. Rep. Charles Gonzales, the Texas Democrat leading the investigation, has said his panel is working independent of the courts in Florida and needs to run its own probe.
Jennings has refused to say if she would run for Congress again in 2008, insisting she is holding out hope that Congress will rule in her favor and make her the congresswoman or set a special election."