Allen West seeks hearing after opponent declares victory in congressional race

11/18/2012 12:48 PM

11/18/2012 2:10 PM

The St. Lucie County canvassing board has missed a noon deadline to file election results to the Division of Elections, prompting campaign officials for Patrick Murphy to declare the political newcomer the winner in the race for congressional District 18 race.

Under Florida law, the final certified results were due from all of the state’s 67 supervisors of elections today. If the results do not arrive on time, the certified unofficial results submitted last Sunday stand. Those results have Murphy winning by 0.58 percent. A spread of less than 0.5 percent would have triggered an automatic recount.

“All Patrick Murphy wanted was to follow the law,” said attorney Gerald Richman, a member of Murphy’s legal team. “They absolutely missed it (deadline). Whatever it is, it is. We just want the law to be followed.”

Tim Edson, West's campaign manager, disagreed.

“As usual, Murphy’s people are full of garbage,” Edson said. “This is something the secretary of state and governor will have to sort out.”

Edson said other problems arose this morning. The recount showed 900 voters cast ballots in precinct 93, where there are 7 registered voters, Edson said.

“We have concerns here,” Edson said. “The results are raising more questions.”

Shortly after the deadline passed, attorneys for West headed to the St. Lucie County Courthouse to request an emergency hearing on the issue. It is not known if a hearing has been scheduled.

The canvassing board resumed ballot counting at 8 a.m. this morning in the tight congressional race between West, R-Palm Beach Gardens, and Murphy under the watchful eyes of dozens of attorneys and supporter of both candidates.

Canvassing board member Tod Lowery, who regularly updates the audience on the process, said the board still had write-in ballots and other questionable ballots from eight days of early voting to review before the noon deadline, by which the state’s 67 supervisors of elections must submit their final, certified tallies.

Last Sunday, the canvassing board agree to recount ballots cast the last three days of early voting after election officials revealed that machines had been unable to read some of the electronic memory cartridges. West’s attorneys then sought a recount of all early ballots after the elections office conceded to double-counting some ballots and ignoring others on election night.

“There was such a cloud of suspicion,” said Jeffrey Scott Shapiro, a Boca Raton attorney on the West legal team. Shapiro observed much of the ballot review in Palm Beach County.

“I felt the way the Palm Beach County supervisor of elections handled it created suspicion, and I still don’t know if it was unnecessary or justified,” Shapiro said.

That recount began at 9:40 a.m. Saturday and continued until 10 p.m. Unlike the four-day ballot review in Palm Beach County that ended Nov. 10 — where Palm Beach Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher offered few updates and ignored or routinely declined to answer questions from reporters, attorneys and the public — the St. Lucie County Canvassing Board has allowed representatives has encouraged officials from both campaigns to agree on protocol. That includes how and when results will be released today.

“We just want to be transparent and assure voters that every vote is counted,” said County Judge Kathryn Nelson, a member of the canvassing board.

Murphy’s campaign officials declined to comment on the recount process. However, Edson said he is pleased with how smoothly the recount has gone and impressed with the canvassing board’s attention to detail.

“I’m confident with what we’ve seen here, the results will be accurate,” Edson said.

One lingering concern remains: the West team’s request to view the poll sign-in sheets from election day. Edson said they had received some of those records from Palm Beach County and have not received the sign-in sheets — which voters sign went the vote — in St. Lucie County. West’s campaign wants to compare the number of signatures on the poll sign-in sheets to the computer tabulations.

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