Election night found U.S. Rep. Allen West, R-Palm Beach Gardens, in unfamiliar territory: He hadn’t won, but he wasn’t convinced that he had lost either.
West clearly lost his first bid for Congress against U.S. Rep. Ron Klein, D-Boca Raton, in 2008. And two years later, he clearly thumped Klein.
But on the night of Nov. 6, 2012, state results showed Democrat Patrick Murphy narrowly ahead but outside of recount territory in one of the most expensive and high-profile U.S. House contests in the country. (West beat Klein in Congressional District 22 but then moved due to redistricting. You can read our full West fact-check file here.)
By the morning, West demanded a closer look at results in Congressional District 18, which spans parts of Palm Beach, St. Lucie and Martin counties. Most of the controversy centered on St. Lucie, which had trouble counting ballots.
That led to a whirlwind two weeks of court hearings, partial recounts, a visit by state election officials to monitor the mayhem, scrutiny of St. Lucie County election supervisor Gertrude Walker and around-the-clock news coverage. Every morsel was put under the microscope, including Murphy’s false claim that West had never shaken his hand, prompting the West campaign to point to a photo of the two candidates shaking hands at a debate.
A Nov. 18 article in the Palm Beach Post paraphrased West campaign manager Tim Edson raising questions about St. Lucie’s ballot counting. "Among them: Preliminary totals showed 900 voters cast ballots in Precinct 93, where only seven voters are registered, Edson said." The claim that about 900 voters casting ballots in a precinct with only 7 voters went viral and was repeated on a CBS news website and on a West fan page on Facebook.
"#AllenWestRecount - A Pct had - 7 registered voters in Guatemalan community and the tally showed 900 voted!!!!! - THIS IS NOT OFFICIAL YET - The commissioner has NOT announced ANYONE the winner or the numbers yet. They are STILL behind closed doors."
On Nov. 20, West conceded, though he continued to raise questions about St. Lucie County results. On the same day, a PolitiFact reader asked us about a claim he found on Facebook about Precinct 93. He asked us "Is this true and newsworthy? Or is it just conservatives whining that they lost?"
So we went in search of what went down in Precinct 93 -- otherwise known as Golden Ponds Recreation Center in St. Lucie County.
St. Lucie County and the ‘bungled’ count
First, some more background on the West-Murphy postelection battle in St. Lucie County, which started election night when the county had trouble reading ballots on tabulation machines.
You can read blow-by-blow accounts from the Palm Beach Post or the Associated Press.
As the door on West’s chances appeared to be closing, the Palm Beach Post wrote Nov. 18: "The St. Lucie County Canvassing Board missed a noon Nov. 18th deadline to file results to the state Division of Elections so that left previously submitted certified unofficial results standing: Murphy was ahead of West by about .58 percent."
The root of the confusion about Precinct 93
Part of the West campaign claim isn’t in dispute. The St. Lucie County Supervisor of Electionswebsite shows seven active voters in Precinct 93 -- three Democrats, three Republicans and one "other," as of September 2012.