Group plans to review St. Lucie County ballots, records from Murphy-West cliffhangerby George Bennett | May 10th, 2013
A conservative group plans to examine more than 118,000 ballots and sift through voter registration records in St. Lucie County, which was the site of tabulating problems and litigation in Democrat Patrick Murphy‘s narrow congressional victory over Republican Allen West in November.
The group True The Vote says it will send at least 10 people to Fort Pierce to look at the ballots and records under an agreement reached this week with St. Lucie County Elections Supervisor Gertrude Walker.
True The Vote and Pamela Wohlschlegel, the former head of the Palm Beach County Tea Party, filed a federal suit against Walker in February, claiming her office was denying access to public records. Walker denied blocking access. A settlement dated Wednesday states True The Vote will have access to the records it wants and will pay the elections office for copies and staff time associated with the request.
“This lawsuit has never been about the victor. It’s been about vulnerabilities, vulnerabilities in the system,” True The Vote attorney J. Christian Adams said. He said at least 10 and as many as 50 people will participate in examining the ballots and records. Adams said his group expects to pay more than $20,000 for the exercise.
Among the questions True The Vote hopes to answer, Adams said, is “Were people voting in the congressional election that weren’t allowed to vote?”
The records True The Vote plans to review include registration forms for people who became voters after Jan. 1, 2012, notices sent to inactive voters, lists of voters purged from the county rolls after Jan. 1, 2009, notices sent to potential felons and lists of voters who were identified by the Florida secretary of state’s office as potential non-citizens.
Murphy officially defeated West by 1,904 votes or less than 0.6 percent in the expensive, nationally watched congressional District 18 race. About 36 percent of the ballots were cast in St. Lucie County, with the remainder in Martin and Palm Beach counties.
Walker admitted her office double-counted some ballots from early voting and failed to count others on election night. That led to a partial recount of 16,275 early-voting ballots in which West made a net gain of 535 votes. Based on those results and the subsequent revelation that another 306 early votes had gone uncounted, the county’s canvassing board ordered a recount of all 37,379 ballots from St. Lucie County’s early voting.
The larger recount showed Murphy making a net gain of 242 votes — but the revised figure was not included in the county’s official total because the canvassing board missed a noon deadline to submit its final results to the state Division of Elections.