Two attorneys are petitioning the Florida Secretary of State for a recount of every vote cast in Martin, St. Lucie and Palm Beach counties in the tightly contested District 18 race, which favored Patrick Murphy over U.S. Rep . Allen West.
Attorneys Jeffrey Scott Shapiro of Boca Raton and Mark Young of West Palm Beach sent out the request. Both have previously volunteered for West's campaign. However, West campaign manager Tim Edson said the attorneys sent the petition independent of West's team.
"It's not something our campaign has done," Edson said. "Our focus is making sure all the votes in St. Lucie County are counted."
The letter is the latest unfolding in an already lawyered up exchange among counsels supporting West, Murphy and Supervisor of Elections Gertrude Walker. West's next hearing is set for 1 p.m. on Friday in St. Lucie County Circuit Court, where his legal team will argue for a full early voting recount in the county.
In their five-page request to Secretary Ken Detzner, Young and Shapiro claim that a machine recount across District 18 would only take two days. Their paperwork called that a minimal price to pay compared to the "cost of creating a specter of a 'cloud of suspicion' in an election where 3.2 percent of the machine recounted vote disappeared."
A full recount is only triggered in Florida law for races decided by 0.5 percent or less. Shapiro and Young claim West is 249 votes away from a state-mandated recount. Edson noted the number of votes needed for the full recount could fluctuate because it's based on percentages.
After a partial recount in St. Lucie County on Sunday, Murphy still was the unofficial winner and stayed outside of automatic recount territory. West trailed Murphy by 1,907 votes, or 0.57 percent, across the district. West, the Palm Beach Gardens Republican, lost 132 votes and Murphy dropped 667 with the recount.
Murphy campaign manager Anthony Kusich responded Thursday that the race is already over.
"Patrick Murphy has been certified the winner of this election. His margin of victory is outside the recount range," Kusich said. "Allen West wants to keep counting votes until he gets the outcome he desires. That's not how elections work and that is not how the law works."
Walker has said memory card issues were to blame when thousands of early votes were either not counted or double-counted. She said Sunday's "retabulation," — a recount conducted when a supervisor thinks results contain machine errors — remedied all problems.
Both West and the Department of State thought the St. Lucie canvassing board would recount all 37,379 early votes Sunday, not just the 16,275 early ballots cast the first three days this month.
Detzner deployed Division of Elections investigators Wednesday to audit St. Lucie's elections practices — a task that could last until Saturday. The auditors will produce a report with recommendations from their visit. Division of Elections spokesman Chris Cate said he didn't want to estimate a timetable for the release of the report.
In an interview Thursday, Shapiro said the Secretary should order audits in District 18's other two counties, too. He suggested the Secretary could then file lawsuits to order recounts districtwide. Cate could not be reached Thursday to respond on the Division of Elections' behalf to Shapiro's ideas.
West's campaign has already sent two letters to the Secretary of State suggesting alleged discrepancies to investigate. Correspondence from West legal counsel Jason Torchinsky on Thursday claims the campaign has "significant questions relating to nearly 1,000 votes" after sifting through some voting records.
West and eight St. Lucie early voters will head to court Friday in Fort Pierce. The lawsuit they filed Tuesday demands the canvassing board recount all early votes before certifying the results. The West campaign expressed concern when Walker only recounted early ballots cast Nov. 1 through Nov. 3. The canvassing board has to send certified results to the state Sunday at noon, and the state certifies the results Tuesday.
In West's first legal case, a Palm Beach County Circuit Court judge denied the congressman's request last Friday to impound voting equipment and ballots for a recount.