Protesters, judges and ballot questions are now at the center of the pitched fight over the congressional seat held by U.S. Rep. Allen West, R-Fla., as the one-term congressman is demanding that all the ballots be counted in the race.
According to Scripps Newspaper Group’s TCPalm newspaper website, dozens of protesters gathered outside the St. Lucie County elections supervisor’s office to demand an accurate count of ballots.
West also has filed a complaint seeking an order for a recount of all of last week’s election ballots in his 18th Congressional District race against Democrat Patrick Murphy, who has claimed victory.
After a partial recount over the weekend, West had trailed Murphy by 1,907 votes. West lost 132 votes during that recount but Murphy dropped by 667 in the recount of just early ballots from Nov. 1-3.
West, a retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel, said there were many irregularities coming out of St. Lucie County. He said there undoubtedly would be more changes should a full recount be done.
A statement from West’s office said: “This limited, partial re-feed – not conducted pursuant to any statute – uncovered significant errors in the initial tabulation of votes. Nearly 1,000 votes disappeared from the county, and neither the Canvassing Board nor the [elections] supervisor provided any explanation for this selective recount.”
Now, the state of Florida is getting involved, sending auditors to St. Lucie County to investigate.
“I am pleased that the Secretary of State is sending auditors to help sort out the mess in St. Lucie County,” West posted on his Facebook page. “Please read our letter to the Secretary of State laying out our serious concerns and desire to see every vote counted fairly and accurately.”
West told Fox News Tuesday night that he would be only satisfied with the results of the election when the recount was complete, saying it was unfair to the voters to not investigate.
“If someone has a problem with me then it should be taken out against me,” he said. “But you should not do it at the expense of the voters. And that is the most important thing. Look if we do not have integrity in our election process then we don’t have the exceptionalism as a constitutional republic, we don’t have a rule of law. ”
The protesters gathered in front of Elections Supervisor Gertrude Walker’s office said they were asking that all votes be counted.
“It’s all about procedure and the process, not about who wins,” Coast Guard veteran Fred Perry told the TCPalm site.
West’s case asks for a preliminary injunction to order county officials to recount all the votes because of a sudden swing of nearly 4,000 votes in the district with no explanation.
It happened when West was leading by 1,700 votes, but suddenly, with the next report of the totals, trailed by about 2,000.
The West campaign also wants St. Lucie County, where one businessman famously gave Barack Obama a bear hug during the campaign and ultimately was rewarded with a key to the city, to release poll check-in books.
The aim is to ensure the number of ballots cast match the number of voters.
Also jumping into the publicity around the tight race was Al Sharpton, whose National Action Network also said it would call for a recount of the ballots.
The organization claimed it was looking into reports of voter intimidation.
On a Facebook page, the West campaign said, “The facts are beginning to emerge about election night in St. Lucie County.”
The statement said: “They’re painting a very chaotic scene, we’ve heard that before, but we’re learning more details about the chaos. She said they had trouble with five disks that they couldn’t upload the information. It’s not that they weren’t uploadable, they were actually blank, so what they did on election night, they got the ballots out, they got the ballot reader out and started stuffing 26,000 ballots into the reader to try to make sure they got some results out in an expedient manner.”
West earlier said the lack of explanation for the mysterious vote swing is “unconscionable.”
Appearing Monday night on “Hannity” on the Fox News Channel, West said, “The thing that spurred our curiosity in our race was the fact that at 1 o’clock in the morning on Election Night, all of a sudden there was a 4,000-vote swing that took me from being ahead to put the lead into my opponent’s hands.
“And what the supervisor of elections of St. Lucie County said, Gertrude Walker, was that they went back and did a recount of the early votes that they had already counted, the first three or four days. What we’re asking is very simple. Let’s have a full recount of all of those early votes, because to have a full 4,000-vote swing in a 35-minute period is unconscionable.”
“We have instances where there were polling locations where the doors were locked and vote-counting was done, which is a violation of Florida statute,” West added. “And also, Ms. Walker, when she announced on Saturday that she would do a full recount of early votes on Sunday, but then she came back and only did the last three days, that’s another violation of Florida statute. So I think we all need to take the time out to make sure that we have a fair and equitable democratic electoral process.”
West’s battle against political newcomer Patrick Murphy was one of America’s costliest and fiercest House races, with more than $23 million spent, mostly on negative ads that flooded South Florida airwaves for months.
“I’m definitely excited to put the campaign behind us,” Murphy told the Palm Beach Post Monday. “It was a long campaign; it was a dirty campaign. I’m excited to get to work in D.C.”