ST. LUCIE COUNTY —A St. Lucie County Circuit Court judge has scheduled a hearing at 1 p.m. today for U.S. Rep. Allen West's latest St. Lucie challenge for an election recount.
West, who narrowly lost his District 18 bid to Democrat Patrick Murphy in unofficial results, filed a lawsuit Tuesday evening demanding the canvassing board recount all early votes before certifying the results. The West campaign expressed concern when Supervisor of Elections Gertrude Walker on Sunday performed a partial recount of ballots only cast Nov. 1 through 3.
Judge Dan Vaughn will hear West's case today.
Listed as plaintiffs alongside the Palm Beach Gardens Republican are early voters from St. Lucie: Lynn 'Sam' Sammuli, Caroline Knudsen, Sandra Krischke, Phyllis Genovese, Mark Gotz, Megan Elam and Catherine Griffin.
West's legal motion claims the early voting plaintiffs were "deprived of their equal protection right to have their vote counted due to the nature of the improper selective recount." Since the recount Sunday dropped the vote total, West's campaign argues the early votes that the plaintiffs cast from Oct. 27 to 31 might not have been counted correctly.
West's legal team has questioned how Walker's numbers add up. The campaign also wants to look at the polling books.
Walker admitted Tuesday there were errors where thousands of votes were either not counted or counted twice. She said the Sunday recount remedied the situation.
After the recount, West trailed Murphy by 1,907 votes, or 0.57 percent, across the Martin-St. Lucie-northern Palm Beach district. West lost 132 votes and his Democratic Jupiter opponent dropped 667 with the recount.
Walker's legal rebuttal states she doesn't have the authority to order a recount. That is spelled out in state law, which says only an election decided by 0.5 percent or less triggers an automatic recount. What happened Sunday, Walker has said, technically is a "retabulation," which a supervisor can perform at her discretion when possible errors exist in vote counting.
"The Motion is devoid of any actual legal argument or factual allegation, let alone clear proof of the elements required for the granting of an injunction under controlling Florida law," a court document with Walker's response states.
The canvassing board has to certify its results to the state Sunday, and the state ultimately certifies results Tuesday.
"If we can't resolve this in the next four days, then there are going to be serious unanswered questions about the vote total certified out of St. Lucie County," West legal counsel Jason Torchinsky said in a conference call Wednesday.
In West's first legal defeat, a Palm Beach County Circuit Court judge dismissed the congressman's motion Nov. 9 to impound Palm Beach's ballots and voting machines for a potential recount.
Sean Domnick, a lawyer representing Murphy, has said the St. Lucie case has "different words, but the same lack of substance."
"I don't think he'll be able to drag it out very far," Domnick said Wednesday at the supervisor's office. "I'm confident the courts will dispense with this as quickly as the court in Palm Beach already dispensed with it."
Department of State spokesman Chris Cate said the department also thought all 37,379 early votes would be recounted Sunday, not just the 16,275 early ballots cast Nov. 1 through 3.
Cate said the canvassing board needed to be confident in reporting its unofficial results to the state, which St. Lucie was required to finalize by last Saturday.
A letter to Walker from Secretary of State Ken Detzner said officials would "observe and examine the election processes, to include any vote tabulations, and the condition, custody, and operation of voting systems" for the election.
The state officials will report any findings from voting materials and records to the 19th Judicial Circuit Court and the Department of State.
"We are concerned whenever there is a question about the accuracy of results," Cate said in an email. " ... We are not aware of any counties experiencing the same issues as St. Lucie."
The state auditors can only give recommendations to the canvassing board, but can't give orders because the supervisor is a constitutionally elected position.
-Staff writer Tyler Treadway contributed to this report.