ST. LUCIE COUNTY, Fla. -- Allen West lost even more ground in St. Lucie County's recount of early votes Sunday, but the congressman's campaign has shown no intention of conceding to Patrick Murphy amid dwindling time and legal options.
Though St. Lucie's canvassing board missed its deadline to report updated results to the state, a retabulation Sunday that included 306 more uncounted ballots boosted Murphy's lead in District 18. The rechecking of more than 37,000 early ballots gave Murphy another 274 votes, while West gained 32.
The additional ballots won't technically count because the board turned in its new totals late. The state will use unofficial results filed last Sunday instead. Those have Murphy up by 0.58 percent, or about 1,900 votes, instead of the 0.65-percent lead that includes St. Lucie's recount. Technically, the recount was a "retabulation," because it was ordered by the canvassing board after potential errors.
"It is worth noting, however, that the results of St. Lucie's final retabulation would not affect the ultimate outcome of any race and would not place any race within the margin of a recount," said Department of State spokesman Chris Cate.
West volunteer attorney Jeffrey Scott Shapiro said the campaign is in a period of "reassessment and reconsideration." Shapiro added he has already received a copy of voter data from Martin County, and he is waiting for Palm Beach to fulfill the same request.
"I think we need to go through all the data and see if we feel the most recent numbers out of St. Lucie County make sense," Shapiro said.
Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers previously reported that Annie Clark, administrative assistant for Supervisor of Elections Gertrude Walker, said Sunday that the results "would not be printed for distribution until Monday at the earliest," and that, "We met the noon deadline."
Clark, who has been filling in for Walker and oversaw the weekend recount, was unavailable for an interview and did not answer emails about those conflicting statements.
St. Lucie and Palm Beach judges denied recount-related requests from West in both counties and one attempt to block the St. Lucie recount by Murphy, D-Jupiter. West also filed a lawsuit to force St. Lucie to re-tally its absentee ballots, but Judge Dan Vaughn opted not to rule on it since the motion was tacked late onto another challenge.
"We have been declared the winner three times now," Murphy, a Jupiter Democrat, told WPTV. "You know, a lot of the votes have been counted three times. So, the voters should be very comfortable that the results of this election are good."
A Facebook post Sunday by West, R-Palm Beach Gardens, didn't hint at concession or additional lawsuits.
"From the bottom of my heart, I want to thank everyone for their support during this effort to ensure the integrity of our electoral process," West wrote. "It is truly humbling. I cannot state enough how proud I am to stand with each and every one of you, patriots all. You are the bedrock of our constitutional republic."
The state's Election Canvassing Commission — composed of Gov. Rick Scott and two Cabinet members — meets Tuesday at 9 a.m. to certify federal, state and multicounty race results. Afterward, the clock starts running on West's next legal option.
Candidates have 10 days after state certification to file elections contests — a deadline of next Friday. Those challenges require proving bribery, misconduct, fraud or corruption by a board member or election official; ineligibility of the winning candidate; or receipt of enough illegal votes or rejection of enough legal votes to change or place the election's outcome in doubt.
State law lets unsuccessful candidates or a taxpayer file the contests in circuit court.
Nova Southeastern University constitutional lawyer Bob Jarvis said the circuit court is likely to shoot down West's case. But the congressman could appeal all the way to the Florida Supreme Court, though it wouldn't have to hear his appeal, Jarvis said. And, since West is running for federal office, Jarvis said he could appeal a Florida Supreme Court decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.
West's legal team wants to compare the polls' electronic voter signatures to the vote tabulations. Shapiro said they need to ensure there aren't more votes than registered voters or than voter signatures.
The West campaign also is awaiting a report from the Division of Elections on St. Lucie's ballot-counting practices. Three state elections officials were on hand Wednesday through the weekend for an audit. That report could come after Thanksgiving, Cate told the Palm Beach Post.
West could go another direction by filing a complaint with the U.S. House when Murphy takes his seat in January. Few candidates have been successful in challenges under the Federal Contested Elections Act.
From 1933 until 2009, 107 challenge cases have been brought in front of the House. The seat was taken away from the elected member in at least three of those instances,
according to a 2010 report by the Congressional Research Service.
The West legal team didn't seem eager to go that route, either.
"It's been a significant number of years since any of those challenges have been brought directly to the House of Representatives," Jason Torchinsky, a West attorney, said last week in a teleconference.
Ultimately, Jarvis said it won't be easy for West to prove he should've been the winner, and that's his burden of proof.
"It's very difficult to see where is the evidence that West won this election," Jarvis said. "And ultimately, both the courts and the House of Representatives are focusing on that question."