November 08, 2012 at 3:21 pm
Gertrude Walker, the St. Lucie County supervisor of elections, said Thursday afternoon U.S. Rep. Allen West had not filed paperwork seeking an injunction in circuit court in St. Lucie County and had not requested a hearing before the county’s canvassing board. West had said he was filing an injunction to impound voting machines and paper ballots used in the District 18 election
“Nothing has been scheduled in court in this county,” Walker said. “If there was to be a hearing Friday, and I haven’t heard about that. We’re just kind of standing by.”
A copy of a motion for an injunction on West’s behalf by the Warrenton, Va., law firm of Holtzman Vogel and Josefiak was not time-stamped by the clerk of the circuit court in St. Lucie County. The stamp would have proven the request had been filed by the circuit court clerk.
Walker said the board will have a regularly scheduled meeting at 5 p.m. Thursday to “go over every aspect of Tuesday’s election,” including verification of about 300 ballots that were not read at the polls and 691 provisional ballots.
Because it’s a public meeting, Walker said, candidates also can bring concerns about Tuesday’s election to the board.
West filed an injunction against the supervisors of elections in Palm Beach County. Martin County Supervisor of Elections Vicki Davis said her office wasn’t included.
The Palm Beach County hearing will occur at 5 p.m. tonight at the main courthouse, 205 North Dixie Highway in West Palm Beach.
West campaign manager Tim Edson said the congressman will not attend the hearing.
Hours before today’s injunction hearing, the congressman told Fox News Radio he just wants to make sure the electoral process is fair.
“I’ve been in combat, so this is not a stressful situation for me,” West told Fox News Radio.
“I’m not entitled to anything,” he said. “We want to make sure we have a fair electoral process for the constituents of congressional District 18.”
In the interview, West said there are voting irregularities in St. Lucie County.
“We want to make sure that there’s a fair and open electoral process,” West said. “There are some violations of Florida state law and I think it’s important that be brought to the attention of the constituents.”
West also says of Walker, “There are some things that people have to answer for.”
West also says there is a hearing today “about bringing that before a judge.”
Edson there are still military and provisional ballots to be counted in all three counties. Military ballots can be accepted until Nov. 12.
He said West gained a net 300 votes Wednesday when Palm Beach County tallied more absentee ballots. That puts West down 0.66 percent, which is still outside of the automatic recount range. The Palm Beach Post reported the same margin.
After additional ballots are counted, “this thing will probably end up in recount territory,” according to Edson.
Edson also said it was “not an issue” that the congressman didn’t come out from a separate room to join his campaign’s election night party, which featured 500 attendees. He said West did not want to come out before the results were all in.
West’s party was at the Marriott Hutchinson Island Beach Resort & Marina.
West announced the legal action 10 hours after Democratic challenger Patrick Murphy declared himself the District 18 winner, which MSNBC confirmed.
Murphy’s campaign sent out an email Thursday afternoon asking for donations to to fight against West’s legal challenge.
The email states that previous cases like these result in big legal bills and long, expensive legal fights that “could go on for weeks — months even.”
“We would not be asking for more funds if it was not so urgent,” Murphy’s fundraising email read. “We threw everything we had at winning in the last few days. We can’t let West try to take away our voices just because he has millions in the bank. Please consider a gift today.”
Additional contributions that the campaign receives above and beyond the cost of the legal battle and “other general election activities” will count toward Murphy’s 2014 primary bid, the email states.
With 100 percent of precincts in, The Associated Press still has not declared a winner for District 18, spanning St. Lucie, Martin and northern Palm Beach counties. Murphy garnered 160,328 votes to West’s 157,872. That’s a difference of 2,456. Percentage-wise, that’s 50.4 percent to 49.6 percent, or a 0.8 percent lead favoring Murphy.
Florida law only allows for recounts when a race is decided by a half percentage point or less. The margin in the West-Murphy matchup was razor thin, but not close enough to warrant a recount, according to Florida statutes.
If an election is won by 0.5 percent or less, it triggers an automatic recount. If the margin exceed 0.5 percent, State Division of Elections spokesman Kevin Cate said “there exists no statutory mechanism for a candidate, group or anyone else to have a recount done by the state or any supervisor of elections.”
Walker called West’s request “unusual.”
She said every District 18 ballot remained sealed in a room Wednesday at her Fort Pierce office until a court decides about the recount. She said a recount would occur Saturday, if court ordered.
In one of Congress’s tightest races — and, potentially, biggest upsets — St. Lucie County picked Murphy over West by an 11-percent margin, matching Democrats’ 43-to-32-percent registration edge in the county. In northern Palm Beach, where Republicans hold a 2-point edge, Murphy and West split the vote, 50-50. Martin, the district’s smallest county, went West’s way by 14 percentage points.
West, a Palm Beach Gardens Republican who stormed into Congress on the 2010 Tea Party wave, isn’t giving up. His campaign said Wednesday it would take legal action if Walker’s office didn’t perform a hand recount, “given the hostility and demonstrated incompetence of the St. Lucie County Supervisor of Elections.”
Aside from a news release, West declined further comment through a spokeswoman. A news release said there are still “tens of thousands of absentee ballots to be counted in Palm Beach County and potential provisional ballots across the district,” but did not specify additional issues with Palm Beach County.
A West news release said Walker’s office locked the door to polling places, which Edson said was “in direct violation of Florida law, thereby preventing the public from witnessing the procedures used to tabulate results.”
Walker said the Minsky Gym polling location in Port St. Lucie locked its doors after people got in line to vote at 7 p.m. More than 25 people arrived at the Minsky Gym after the polls closed and demanded to vote, but St. Lucie County sheriff’s deputies eventually persuaded them to leave peacefully with no arrests or rioting, as was rumored, Sheriff Ken Mascara said. Walker said everyone in line by 7 p.m. voted.
Edson also described the supervisor’s office on Tuesday night as “complete chaos.”
Walker said elections work is chaotic everywhere. Elections officials had to manually rerun early voting results from four polls because the results on the voting machines’ memory cards showed errors when downloaded Tuesday night. Walker dismissed Edson’s claim that recounting ballots, which weren’t properly counted the first time, could somehow change the vote.
Officials had changed the cards Thursday to prevent overloading them with the high number of early voters, according to Canvassing Board member and County Commissioner Tod Mowery.
“As far as the chaos part, I think that describes the election process regardless of where it’s being conducted,” Walker said. “I won’t even respond to the incompetence. That’s a very low blow.”
– Jonathan Mattise, Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers