Robo-Calls May Have Swung FL-13

| Tue Nov. 14, 2006 5:33 PM EST

Florida's 13th congressional district was home to the one of the closest races in the midterms. Election night results put the count at 119,102 for the Republican Vernon Buchanan and 118,729 for the Democrat Christine Jennings. That's a difference of 373 votes -- small enough for a recount, which was launched yesterday.

As TPM reports, "The fight will center around the district's Sarasota County, where the electronic machines did not register a vote in the Congressional race for 18,000 voters." Because 53% of voters in Sarasota County voted for the Democrat, a correct counting of votes would have won the district for Jennings, the Democrat, by about 600 votes.

But, frankly, the lost votes shouldn't matter. The Jennings campaign got broadsided by the Republicans' dirty robo-calling operation late in the race. As previously mentioned, the robo-calls are automated calls made to likely voters that carry information about a local candidate. The GOP ones late in the campaign season were particularly insidious because they were "false-flag" robo-calls, lending the impression that they were from the Democratic candidate instead of the Republican. Because a person who hung up on the call would assume they were from the Democrat, and then get called back six or seven or eight times, the overall effect was possibly thousands of voters furious with the local Democrat. See this quote from the Herald Tribune:

"They bugged us with their phone calls something terrible," said Betty, who voted for Buchanan because "with all her calls, Jennings, Jennings, Jennings, I wouldn't have voted for that woman if she were the only one running."

These things were pretty much unavoidable. TPM has the numbers: In the last three weeks of the election, the Republicans paid almost $60,000 for robo-calls against Jennings, enough for somewhere between 400,000 and 1.2 million calls in the district.

Remember, Daniel Schulman of Mother Jones was the first to this story.