Allen West Patrick Murphy race update: Counting continues Sunday in St. Lucie County

The St. Lucie County Canvassing Board suspended its recount of all early voting ballots late Saturday night, saying members would return at 8 a.m. Sunday to complete the job.

The board made the announcement at 10 p.m. that it will continue tabulating write-in and provisional ballots Sunday after counting votes late into Saturday night as supporters for District 18 congressional candidates Patrick Murphy and Allen West watched the process.

Poll workers finished entering in early ballots for all precincts on Saturday evening, but the data has to be put into the computer system for the final count. Also, write-ins and provisional ballots had not been counted before the security system at Orange Blossom Business Center was set to go off, Canvassing Board member Tod Mowery said Saturday.
Mowery said the data entry alone could take one or two hours.
Worn down supporters for both camps lingered outside the county supervisor of elections' office as canvassing board members and poll workers tabulated more than 37,000 early votes.
Murphy held a nearly 2,000-vote lead against opponent West in the District 18 congressional race.
Murphy attorney Sean Domnick said he was disappointed the votes weren't recounted by the end of Saturday night given that all of the workers were present.
"They should have finished it tonight," he said.
West campaign manager Tim Edson said if the process takes longer, so be it.
"Obviously we look forward to seeing the results," Edson said. "We've been pushing for this full recount of early voting. But again, there's time to get this finished. We want to make sure it gets done right. Our goal is to make sure people have confidence that this is a fair and accurate counting."
Suspending the recount ended a more than 12-hour day for the board that saw it played out in two different places.
While elections workers fed eight days worth of ballots into tabulating machines, lawyers for the West, Murphy, the St. Lucie County Canvassing Board and Supervisor of Elections Gertrude Walker were in Circuit Judge Larry Schack's courtroom across town.
The Murphy campaign sought an injunction to stop the recount ordered by the county Canvassing Board Friday night, saying it was illegal. But Schack ruled against Murphy's request to stop it.
The ruling pleased attorneys for Allen West's campaign. It had protested last Sunday's partial recount of three days worth of early voting, saying the recount should have included all eight days.
"Mr. Murphy's papers filed in court today were both procedurally and substantively lacking," West attorney Chris Winkelman said, "and for that reason the judge denied his order."
West's team argued that Murphy's campaign had insufficient grounds to argue that the county's canvassing board broke Florida law when it voted 2 to 1 Friday for Saturday's full recount of all early votes.
Domnick disagreed.
"There is no allegation that I'm aware of, from anybody, of illegal votes or rejection of legal votes," Domnick said. He argued the Florida Legislature passed strick statutes to limits when recounts can be demanded and these had been broken by the Canvassing Board.
"Then, we're right back to where we were before this statutory scheme was enacted by the Legislature," Domnick said, "and that's allowing disappointed parties to henpeck at perceived irregularities and recount and recount and recount."
Judge Kathryn Nelson, the dissenting vote on the Canvassing Board, had been subpoenaed by Murphy's attorneys to testify at Saturday's hearing. But she did not testify.
Instead, Schack ruled that Murphy's request for an injunction to stop the recount failed to prove irreparable harm.
"If Mr. Murphy comes out on the losing end of the recount, he has adequate remedy pursuant to Florida (law)," Schack said.
Domnick said that would be to contest the election results in Leon County Circuit Court in Tallahassee.
But Domnick added he didn't expect Saturday's recount of ballots would reverse Murphy's lead over West.
"There aren't enough votes out there to change this," Domnick said after the hearing. "Patrick Murphy is the winner."
The recount, of all votes cast in early voting,not just those for District 18, was prompted by a state elections auditor finding a box of 306 early voting ballots Friday that never were counted.
It began at the Supervisor of Elections office on Okeechobee Road shortly after 11 a.m. Supervisor of Elections Gertrude Walker was hospitalized on Friday and was not at Saturday's recount. Her administrative assistant, Annie Clark, oversaw election workers.
The Canvassing Board has a tight window to finish the recount, as it must finalize results to send to the state by noon Sunday. The state certifies
all races Tuesday.
Earlier Saturday morning,Mowery addressed a crowd gathered behind a barrier of orange traffic cones that separated observers from machines and election workers. About 100 people were at the elections office by 9 a.m.
Mowery confirmed the 306 uncounted ballots had been "noted" Friday by state Division of Elections officials visiting St. Lucie County. Later, he said those uncounted ballots contained one or more write-in choices that caused tabulating machines to reject them.
All those ballots were cast on Nov. 1-3, the days which had been recounted last Sunday, Mowery said.
Regardless of what happens Saturday, the Fort Pierce mayoral race should not be affected. Mowery said all ballots had been recounted Wednesday in that close race, which Linda Hudson won over Vince Gaskin.
There was a heavy presence of law enforcement officers at Saturday's recount. Mowery said they were on site because there were open ballots in the room that needed protected.
Last Sunday, during a partial recount of early ballots, tempers flared among some observers when a lone sheriff's deputy ordered the building cleared moments after the Canvassing Board announced Murphy still led in votes.
In addition to observers from both Murphy and West campaigns, there also was a contingent from the U.S. House Administrative Committee at Saturday's recount. One of those observers, Mark Braden, said they had been called to Fort Pierce by the West campaign.
Braden said the District 18 contest was one of about a half-dozen races nationwide to which committee observers had been called.
On Friday, David Drury, head of the Division of Elections Bureau of Voting Systems Certifications on hand for the audit, made a "personal" recommendation the St. Lucie County Canvassing Board rerun ballots from five early voting days that hadn't been counted last Sunday. The board decided instead to count all eight days.
Also on Friday, St. Lucie County Judge Dan Vaughn denied West's motion to order a recount of all 37,379 early ballots. Vaughn ruled he didn't have authority to call for a recount, but said his decision didn't "bind the canvassing board from doing what they think is appropriate in these circumstances."
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