Allen West Patrick Murphy race update: State 'concerned' about St. Lucie County results

Florida elections officials will head to St. Lucie County on Wednesday to study how votes were tallied in Patrick Murphy 's unofficial District 18 win over U.S. Rep. Allen West .

Separately, West filed a complaint Tuesday that would force the St. Lucie County canvassing board to recount all eight days of early voting before certifying its election results. Canvassing board certified results are due to the state Sunday, and the state ultimately has to certify elections on Nov. 20.

Meanwhile, both West and Murphy were more than 800 miles away in Washington. West arrived for a lame duck session of Congress and Murphy showed up for day one of new House member orientation.

After a partial recount Sunday in St. Lucie, 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 of 16,275 early ballots, which were cast Nov. 1 through 3.

Technically, St. Lucie conducted a "retabulation" Sunday, which a canvassing board can order when a county suspects errors in its results.

Even with the re-tally, West came up short of an automatic state-required recount. That only occurs when an election is decided by 0.5 percent or less. The recount would have spanned the district — Martin, St. Lucie and northern Palm Beach counties.

At a news conference Tuesday, St. Lucie Supervisor of Elections Gertrude Walker admitted some early voting tabulation errors. Out of 94 precincts, the first 40 — mostly in Fort Pierce — weren't counted at all, and the last 54 — mostly in Port St. Lucie — were counted twice. Walker said the Nov. 11 partial recount remedied all issues.

Department of State spokesman Chris Cate said Tuesday the state thought the Sunday tally would have included all 37,379 votes from eight days of early voting.

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 show up Wednesday to "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."

According to a Tuesday news release, Stuart Republican state Rep. Gayle Harrell urged the Secretary of State to perform the audit. Harrell's release said the audit would take approximately 72 hours. Auditors will make recommendations to the canvassing board. The Secretary of State can't tell supervisors exactly how to conduct their elections, since they're independently elected, the release states.

Walker has said problems stemmed from early voting memory cartridges.

"We're pleased to see the Secretary of State decided to get involved." said West campaign manager Tim Edson. "We hope their involvement will shed some light on the questions that Gertrude Walker has been unwilling or unable to answer. Hopefully it'll lead to a fair and accurate counting of votes."

West's latest legal action in St. Lucie County Circuit Court, which couldn't be confirmed in court documents after office hours Tuesday, includes eight other plaintiffs who were early voters. The injunction lawsuit specifically names Supervisor of Elections Gertrude Walker and Detzner.

"It stands to reason that if the remaining early votes were to be recounted, additional errors would be uncovered and the tabulation of votes revised accordingly," Edson said in a news release. "Until these remaining early ballots are recounted, however, the Canvassing Board has arbitrarily applied differing counting standards to similarly situated ballots."

At the Capitol, Murphy grabbed some attention at day one of freshman orientation in Washington. The Jupiter Democrat said he met with representatives from the New Democrat Coalition, a moderate group he hopes to join. He also said he spoke on behalf of his freshman class at a news conference.

Murphy said West's legal pursuits back in the district are just a distraction.

"Everything is a conspiracy theory to (West), like everyone's against him," Murphy said. "That's not the case."

In West's first legal defeat, a Palm Beach County Circuit Court judge dismissed West's motion Friday to impound ballots and voting machines for a potential recount. Judge David F. Crow called the request "entirely premature" because unofficial results, which came in Saturday at noon, weren't available at the time. He said West's legal team presented no evidence that Florida election law had been breached, and added that the courts are supposed

to stay largely out of elections.

Nova Southeastern University constitutional lawyer Bob Jarvis said the court likely won't entertain West's arguments for long. That's because any ballot issues would've affected both candidates, he said.

West can also file a challenge with the U.S. House when Murphy takes his seat in January. But Jarvis said those complaints historically don't succeed.

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