Boy, talk about a strange but appropriate development: it’s increasingly clear that voting machine errors probably robbed Democratic candidate Christine Jennings of a victory in Katherine Harris’ old Florida House seat. You can read about it in the link, but the basic facts are that the electoral results showed a very large (18,000 vote) “undercount” (i.e., disparity in total votes cast) of House votes in a single county. Moreover, the ballots where voters seem to have skipped the House race in unaccountable numbers were those where every statewide Democratic candidate won by a margin that exceeded the district-wide margin for Jennings’ opponent, Vern Buchanan.This didn’t keep the Florida Secretary of State’s office from certifying the Buchanan win, replicating Harris’ famous quick certification in the 2000 presidential elections. There are a number of ways this result can be overturned: a state audit of voting machine performance; two separate lawsuits, and a direct challenge to the U.S. House. But the problem is that absent any way to exactly recover the uncounted ballots, the only remedy is a new election, which would likely produce a much smaller turnout than occurred on November 7. There’s no evidence of fraud at this point, but this electoral miscarriage of justice reinforces the already powerful case for requiring some sort of paper trail for electronic votes. I guess the good news is that Katherine Harris herself lost by so huge a margin in her fiasco of a Senate race that no manner of errors or quick certifications could have possibly saved her.
TDS Strategy Memos
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By Ed Kilgore
This year’s big media narrative has been the confirmation saga of Neera Tanden, Biden’s nominee for director of the Office of Management and Budget. At New York I wrote about how over-heated the talk surrounding Tanden has become.
Okay, folks, this is getting ridiculous. When a vote in the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on the nomination of Neera Tanden was postponed earlier this week, you would have thought it presented an existential threat to the Biden presidency. “Scrutiny over Tanden’s selection has continued to build as the story over her uneven reception on Capitol Hill stretched through the week,” said one Washington Post story. Politico Playbook suggested that if Tanden didn’t recover, the brouhaha “has the potential to be what Biden might call a BFD.” There’s been all sorts of unintentionally funny speculation about whether the White House is playing some sort of “three-dimensional chess” in its handling of the confirmation, disguising a nefarious plan B or C.
Perhaps it reflects the law of supply and demand, which requires the inflation of any bit of trouble for Biden into a crisis. After all, his Cabinet nominees have been approved by the Senate with a minimum of 56 votes; the second-lowest level of support was 64 votes. One nominee who was the subject of all sorts of initial shrieking, Tom Vilsack, was confirmed with 92 Senate votes. Meanwhile, Congress is on track to approve the largest package of legislation moved by any president since at least the Reagan budget of 1981, with a lot of the work on it being conducted quietly in both chambers. Maybe if the bill hits some sort of roadblock, or if Republican fury at HHS nominee Xavier Becerra (whose confirmation has predictably become the big fundraising and mobilization vehicle for the GOP’s very loud anti-abortion constituency) reaches a certain decibel level, Tanden can get out of the spotlight for a bit.
But what’s really unfair — and beyond that, surreal — is the extent to which this confirmation is being treated as more important than all the others combined, or indeed, as a make-or-break moment for a presidency that has barely begun. It’s not. If Tanden cannot get confirmed, the Biden administration won’t miss a beat, and I am reasonably sure she will still have a distinguished future in public affairs (though perhaps one without much of a social-media presence). And if she is confirmed, we’ll all forget about the brouhaha and begin focusing on how she does the job, which she is, by all accounts, qualified to perform.