In a major upset, Democrat Ciro Rodriguez defeated Republican incumbent Henry Bonilla in a runoff election in Texas's 23rd district. Rodriguez had previously lost two primaries to conservative Democrat Henry Cuellar, in '04 and '06. The third time around, he managed to defeat a conservative Republican.

In an odd way, Rodriguez has Tom DeLay to thank for his victory. DeLay controversially redrew the district in 2002, booting out 100,000 Hispanics to make it more Republican-friendly, giving Bonilla a safe seat. This summer the Supreme Court found that DeLay's scheme violated the Voting Rights Act and forced the state to include a larger Hispanic population, boosting the Democrats chances. When Bonilla failed to receive 50 percent of the vote in the November 7 election, he moved into a runoff with Rodriguez.

Democrats knew they had a strong pickup opportunity, albeit very much under the radar. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spent $1.5 million on the race. The National Republican Congressional Committee, by contrast, didn't drop a dime. Bet they regret that now.

Moreover, the election proved just how much the Tom Tancredo wing of the Republican Party turns off Hispanic voters. Bonilla was the only Mexican-American Republican in Congress--and an aggressive proponent of hardline immigration measures. This election, usually supportive Hispanic voters deserted him in droves. "Bonilla's loss last night confirms one of the Bush administration's greatest fears," the Hotline writes, "that a hard-line position on illegal immigration could cause Republicans long-term damage among the growing Latino vote."


Demand Democracy for Florida
Peter Rothberg

I suspect even many well-informed Nation readers don't know about the 18,382 votes that were lost in one Congressional district in Sarasota, Florida, on Election Day. (I didn't until Katha Pollitt e-mailed me about it last week. It's been reported in the press but not widely.) They were lost on touch-screen voting machines in a tight House race, leaving no paper trail.

What happened was that the more than 18,000 voters, nearly 13 percent of those who showed up at the polls, seemed to cast votes in all possible races except the closely contested Congressional race between Democrat Christine Jennings and Republican Vern Buchanan. This represents a massive undercount compared to other counties, which reported an undercount of less than 2 percent. So it looks almost certain that some glitch sent the votes down the electronic memory hole. The problem is that there's no way to go back and look since there's no paper trail. This makes 2006 the third election in a row shadowed by questions about the integrity of voting machines.

Since this travesty of democracy has come to light, Gov. Jeb Bush and other Florida state officials have refused to take steps that would ensure that each vote is always counted. While citizen groups are rallying in Sarasota, the DC-based group Common Cause is holding a virtual rally nationally to press for legislation that would make something like this impossible in the future. Urge your Senator to support legislation to mandate a paper trail for all votes as well as random audits for all electronic ballots, ask a friend to do the same and click here to learn how to do more.