Recount brouhaha: Numbers shift, Murphy camp claims win, West camp vows legal actionby George Bennett | November 11th, 2012
FORT PIERCE — A partial recount of early ballots from St. Lucie County further narrowed Democrat Patrick Murphy’s thin margin of victory over Republican U.S. Rep. Allen West, prompting the West campaign to call for a recount of all the early-vote ballots.
Murphy’s total dropped by 667 votes and West lost 132 votes in the recount of 16,275 ballots from the last three days of early voting in St. Lucie County. West’s net gain of 535 votes still leaves him about 0.58 percent behind Murphy in congressional District 18, which also includes Martin County and part of Palm Beach County.
A margin of 0.5 percent or closer is needed to trigger a recount under state law.
West’s campaign manager, Tim Edson, called the recount a “sham” because St. Lucie County’s canvassing board originally announced it would recount all 37,379 early votes cast in the county. He said the West campaign will pursue “every legal action available to make sure every vote is counted fairly and accurately in this election.”
Murphy attorney Sean Dominick said there is no reason for additional recounts.
“They’re sill outside the margin for a recount and there is absolutely no reason to think that any of the other days would change the outcome at all,” Dominick said.
“They (the West campaign) got what they wanted. They lost. It’s time to step aside and let Patrick Murphy do the business of the people of the 18th congressional district and he looks forward to representing them in Congress.”
The early vote totals came into question on election night when some electronic memory cards containing early ballots could not initially be read by tabulating machines. The ballots were scanned later in the evening and changed what had been a small West lead into a small Murphy advantage.
Elections officials said the problem was confined to ballots from the last three days of early voting. But the West campaign said it was told Thursday that the problem was with the first three days.
“The real issue now is trying to determine if the batch that they recounted was in fact the correct batch of affected votes. They say they know they counted the right batch of early votes. But the public has no way of knowing that,” said Jeffrey Scott Shapiro, a volunteer attorney for the West campaign.
“I think it would have been a lot simpler if they had just done what they said they were going to do on their Internet site and recount all the early votes. There was no reason not to do that,” Shapiro said.
A notice on the St. Lucie County elections website on Saturday advertised an emergency meeting of the canvassing board this morning “to recount all ballots cast during early voting.”
But Assistant County Attorney Heather Young began the proceedings by announcing only the last three days of early voting would be recounted because those were the only days for which there was a problem reading memory cards. And while the meeting was advertised as a “recount,” Young later said it was more properly a “re-feed” of ballots.