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.