Though the presidential election passed without issue in the Sunshine State, Florida is once again at the center of a vote counting controversy.
After election night, Florida Democrat Patrick Murphy emerged with a slim lead over his opponent, congressman and Tea Party star Allen West. Since then, Mr. West’s campaign has been pushing for a recount and in a letter sent to the St. Lucie County Supervisor of Elections Gertrude Walker and the county’s Canvassing Board this morning they outlined one of their “serious concerns”–an alleged “malfunction” of the memory cards used to scan ballots in that county.
“If satisfactory answers are not forthcoming, we may need to direct our attorneys to take further legal actions to resolve these serious legal questions about the canvass of the election in St. Lucie County,” wrote Mr. West’s campaign manager Tim Edson.
With 100 percent of precincts counted in the race, the Associated Press reported Mr. Murphy was ahead of Mr. West by 2,456 votes, or 0.8 percent of the total cast. That’s just shy of the 0.5 percent margin that would cause a mandatory recount. Though the Associated Press hasn’t declared a winner in the race, other media outlets have and Mr. Murphy published a statement accepting the seat in the Sunshine State’s 18th Congressional District and has declared his intention to attend Congress’ freshman orientation next week.
For his part, Mr. West has had lawyers pushing for a recount and local Republican organizations have filed injunctions to have voting machines and ballots impounded in Palm Beach and St. Lucie counties. Mr. West has not taken action in the district’s other county, Marin, where he won by 11,000 votes.
In his letter, Mr. Edson provided details about the issues the West campaign has with the vote count in St. Lucie. Mainly, Mr. Edson said they “understand” that the county “re-ran some 15,000 ballots that were cast on the first three days of early voting” after a “malfunction” in the memory cards used with the optical scanners that were used to count the votes.
“We have serious concerns that these ballots may have been wholly or in part counted twice, which in a race as close as ours makes a substantial difference both in whether there is going to be a state mandated automatic recount or in the overall outcome of the Congressional District 18 election,” Mr. Edson wrote.
Mr. Edson, who demanded answer’s to his questions about the ballot count by noon today, said his concern is based on the numbers the county provided for “cards cast” and “times counted” not adding up. He cited one precinct where he said the counts indicated 38 extra voters were counted and another where 54 too few votes were counted. Though these numbers are clearly quite small in a race where over 300,000 votes were cast, based on the Associated Press’ numbers a difference of just about 800 votes would be enough to trigger the recount. Therefore, it’s easy to see why Mr. West’s campaign is making an issue over even these small potential discrepancies.
Politicker reached out to Ms. Walker’s office for a response, but we were told she was not immediately available as she is “out canvassing.”
View Mr. Edson’s full letter here.