Former Florida elections chief on West-Murphy: ‘How do you get away with doing a partial recount?’by George Bennett | November 13th, 2012
Former Florida Secretary of State Kurt Browning, a three-decade veteran of Florida elections, says he understands why Republican U.S. Rep. Allen West would be “a little steamed” by Sunday’s disputed partial recount of early votes in St. Lucie County.
A recount wasn’t required by state law because Democrat Patrick Murphy’s margin was larger than 0.5 percent. But St. Lucie County elections officials acknowledged problems with the way electronic memory cartridges of early votes were uploaded on election night and scheduled an emergency canvassing board meeting Sunday to recount all 37,379 early votes for all the races on the ballot.
On Sunday, however, the county said the cartridge problem was limited to the last three days of early voting, so only 16,275 ballots cast on those days would be recounted. The recount revealed a 799-vote error in the West-Murphy race that resulted in a 535-vote net gain for West and reduced Murphy’s margin to 0.58 percent.
“Why did they do a recount when it was outside the one half of one percent? If in fact they did order a recount, why did they order a partial recount?” said Browning, who emphasized he has no first-hand knowledge of the situation but says he’s been puzzled by what he’s read about it.
“Being that she (St. Lucie County Supervisor of Elections Gertrude Walker) has done a partial recount of ballots, how do you get away with doing a partial recount and not a total recount? The law doesn’t make any provision for a partial recount. It’s either all or nothing,” Browning said.
The partial recount flipped the Fort Pierce mayor’s race from a narrow win for Vince Gaskin to a narrow win for challenger Linda Hudson. That race is going to a full recount because it’s within 0.44 percent.
West says there should be a full recount of early ballots because the errors revealed by the recount of three days of early voting suggest “something is fishy” with all eight days of early voting.
Browning, who was Pasco County’s elections supervisor from 1981 to 2007 and Florida secretary of state for five years after that, said it’s unusual for a recount of optical-scan ballots to produce such a large change in vote totals — 667 lost votes for Murphy and 132 lost votes for West.
“If I were Allen West and my opponent lost 600-plus votes, I’d be a little steamed. Because how many votes would he lose if you did a full recount?” Browning said.