Court hearing set Friday in West-Murphy vote-count dispute
A St. Lucie County circuit judge has scheduled a two-hour hearing for Friday on Republican U.S. Rep. Allen Wests request for a recount of all 37,379 ballots cast during early voting in St. Lucie County in his tight reelection fight against Democrat Patrick Murphy.
Murphy holds a 0.58 percent lead over West in unofficial returns from congressional District 18, which includes St. Lucie and Martin counties and northern Palm Beach County.
West has not conceded, citing errors in St. Lucie Countys initial early vote tally that prompted Secretary of State Ken Detzner to send three officials to Fort Pierce Wednesday to begin observing the St. Lucie County elections office.
St. Lucie County Elections Supervisor Gertrude Walker said her office double-counted some early ballots and failed to count others on election night. But Walker said the problem was limited to ballots from three of the eight days of early voting and was fixed Sunday during a recount of those votes.
West says a full recount of ballots from all eight days of early voting is needed to eliminate any doubts about St. Lucie Countys totals. Wests motion for injunctive relief asks Circuit Judge Dan Vaughn to order a full recount of early votes and bar the county from certifying results until the recount is complete. Vaughn set a hearing on the motion for 1 p.m. Friday.
Counties must file certified results with the state by noon Sunday. The states Election Canvassing Commission gives final certification to all results on Tuesday.
Detzner sent three officials to St. Lucie County to observe and make recommendations. David Drury, head of the Division of Elections Bureau of Voting Systems Certifications, arrived late in the afternoon and spoke to Walker while elections workers conducted a recount in the Fort Pierce mayors race.
In that race, a total of 448 new votes appeared after Sundays partial recount, while a total of 799 votes disappeared from the West-Murphy race during the same recount. Murphy lost 667 votes and West 132 a net gain of 535 votes for West that reduced Murphys overall margin to 1,907 votes or 0.58 percent.
A race must be within 0.5 percent to trigger a recount under state law. But state law also allows a county to conduct a retabulation of votes if it determines that the unofficial returns may contain a counting error in which the vote tabulation system failed to count votes that were properly marked.
Wests camp argues the errors that came to light in Sundays partial recount justify a full recount or retabulation.
What were seeking is the truth of what the actual vote count is, West attorney Jason Torchinsky told reporters on a conference call Wednesday. And given all these inconsistent and constantly changing numbers, we have no confidence in the numbers that are being reported by St. Lucie County right now.
But Murphy attorney Sean Domnick said Sundays partial recount was sufficient.
There is no reason to doubt the veracity of the other votes, the process that was there. If there was, these folks (the St. Lucie County canvassing board) would have looked at those other days, Domnick said. I am absolutely comfortable that the canvassing board looked at what their responsibility was, fulfilled their responsibility and Patrick Murphy is the winner.
Posted by: Au Auric 2012-11-15