November 16, 2012 at 9:49 pm
The St. Lucie County Canvassing Board agreed to retabulate all eight days of early voting late Friday after it discovered 304 ballots had not been counted.
The decision came hours after a St. Lucie County judge denied a request by U.S. Rep. Allen West for a full recount of early votes in the race for the 18th Congressional district.
The recount of every early vote cast for every race was expected to begin on Saturday morning and would include the three days of early voting that were retabulated earlier this week.
Tod Mowery, a member of the Canvassing Board, said the ballots — which were found in a box — had not been counted.
“We are pleased the Canvassing Board has done the right thing for the voters of St Lucie County by agreeing to a retabulation of early votes,” said West. ”All we have been fighting for since the very beginning is to ensure the citizens of this county have their votes accurately and fairly counted.”
Earlier on Friday, attorneys for West argued that discrepancies in vote totals and reported equipment malfunctions warranted a recount to ensure the integrity of the race.
Attorneys for Supervisor of Elections Gertrude Walker and Patrick Murphy, the projected winner of the race, countered that Judge Dan Vaughn would have invited error and chaos if he had sided with West.
Vaughn said the elements for a temporary injunction had not been met.
West, the Tea Party favorite who appeared to be headed for defeat, has refused to concede.
After a partial recount of ballots cast during the final three days of early voting in St. Lucie County, Murphy, a Democrat, led West by 1,907 votes or a margin of more than 0.5% — more than what would trigger an automatic recount.
“It stands to reason that if the remaining early votes were to be recounted, additional errors would be uncovered and the tabulation of votes revised accordingly,” Allen West for Congress said in a statement.
The campaign called the recount a “sham” and said all eight days of early voting in St. Lucie County should be have been recounted.
Late Thursday, West’s attorneys said they had discovered possible discrepancies in St. Lucie County after a review of early and absentee ballot information.
Nearly 1,000 votes may be in question, according to Tim Edson, Allen West for Congress campaign manager.
In a letter to Secretary of State Ken Detzner, attorneys said 110 early votes were cast in a precinct that didn’t have enough early voters to support the number of votes cast.
Four hundred eighty-eight people cast early votes in precinct 28, they said, but election returns showed 499 early votes were counted.
Attorneys also raised concerns about 121 voters they said had returned absentee ballots but did not appear to have been assigned precinct.
Earlier, volunteer attorneys for West had petitioned Detzner to conduct a preliminary investigation into the election and for a machine recount in three counties.
Attorneys Mark Young and Jeffrey Scott Shapiro said 809 votes disappeared when the St. Lucie County Supervisor of Elections retabulated the final three days of early votes on Sunday.
Young and Shapiro said the missing votes, which accounted for 3.2% of the retabulated votes, amounted to an irregularity.
After the retabulation, West received a net increase of 535 votes over Murphy.
“On faith and belief, if this trend continues, for the remaining votes, the final outcome of the Congressional election could change,” Yound and Shapiro said.
David Drury, a Florida Division of Elections bureau chief, arrived in St. Lucie County on Wednesday to begin an audit of how the county’s canvassing board ran the election.
A spokesperson for Detzner said he expected Drury and two others from the state’s Bureau of Voting Systems Certification to remain in St. Lucie County through the weekend.
Last week, a Palm Beach County Circuit Court judge denied a request by West to impound voting machines and recount ballots.
West has less than one week left to contest the election.