FORT PIERCE — A judge today denied U.S. Rep. Allen West‘s request that he order a recount of 37,379 ballots from early voting in St. Lucie County — effectively leaving the decision up to the county’s canvassing board, which meets today at 4 p.m.
Circuit Judge Dan Vaughn said he did not have the authority to issue an injunction ordering the recount, which West wanted after problems emerged in the counting of early votes on election night.
Unofficial returns show Democrat Patrick Murphy leading the race by 1,907 votes or 0.58 percent in District 18, which includes St. Lucie, Martin and northern Palm Beach counties.
West has not conceded.
In denying West’s motion, Vaughn noted the canvassing board is considering the issue at a meeting this afternoon. The judge also said that West has other legal remedies — specifically mentioning a statute that allows a candidate to contest an election within 10 days of the final certification of results. That certification is scheduled for Tuesday.
After West filed his motion for an injunction on Tuesday in St. Lucie County circuit court, the canvassing board on Thursday scheduled a meeting for this afternoon to consider a full recount of early votes.
Murphy attorney Gerald Richman said in court today that there is no basis for a full recount of early votes and if the canvassing board orders a full recount of them, the Murphy campaign will go to court to try to block it.
“If the canvassing board were to decide that they want to do that without any evidentiary basis to do so, we’ll be back before your honor with a motion for injunctive relief against them doing it because under the law the statute that we cited for your honor they have absolutely no right to do it,” Richman said.
“Now we’re getting both sides threatening us,” said St. Lucie County Attorney Dan McIntyre, representing the canvassing board.
The canvassing board originally planned a full recount of early votes after some were double-counted and others were ignored on election night. But after announcing the full recount late Saturday, the board reversed course Sunday morning and decided to only recount 16,275 ballots from three of the eight days of early voting.
That recount resulted in 799 early votes vanishing from the West-Murphy race. West argued the irregularities that came to light in the partial recount merited a full recount.
West’s attorneys also amended their complaint this morning to ask for a recount of approximately 37,000 absentee ballots from St. Lucie County, but Vaughn did not rule on that petition.
In an amended complaint filed this morning, the West campaign says its review of absentee ballot records shows “significant problems” with those ballots as well the early votes. The West camp says that in some precincts, the number of absentee votes recorded exceeds the number of voters who are listed as casting absentee ballots.
Under Florida law, a candidate must be within 0.5 percent to merit a recount. Murphy’s margin is larger. The West campaign technically wanted the judge — and now the canvassing board — to order a “retabulation” under Florida statutes, which allow a county to conduct such an exercise if it finds errors in its initial tabulation of votes.
If there is a retabulation, West would need to gain a few hundred votes to get within 0.5 percent and trigger a full recount from all three counties.