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GOP leaders back West’s call for recount

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** FILE ** This Oct. 4, 2011 photo shows Rep. Allen West, Florida Republican, during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. West is still fighting for votes two days after Election Day. But now, he’s doing it in the courtroom. West is the tea party idol from South Florida who found himself 2,456 votes behind Democratic rival Patrick Murphy in Tuesday’s unofficial tally. (AP Photo/Harry Hamburg)

State and national Republican Party officials are getting behind Rep. Allen B. West’s call for a recount of all early votes in St. Lucie County, Fla., saying it would be “unconscionable” not to answer lingering questions about the results, which show the outspoken GOP lawmaker trailing Democratic challenger Patrick Murphy.

The latest count shows Mr. West about 1,900 votes behind Mr. Murphy, but the incumbent points to problems with St. Lucie, where officials have already recounted ballots from three days of early voting, but where Mr. West wants a full count. The race remains one of just a handful of House contests from the Nov. 6 vote that are not formally decided.

The congressman has gone to court to ask for the full recount, and his case is slated for a hearing on Friday.

“The supervisor of elections owes it to the people that elected her to count all of their votes that were cast early in the 2012 election cycle,” Florida Republican Party Chairman Lenny Curry said in a statement Thursday. “She has already admitted there was a problem with the counting process and announced she would count all the votes. It makes no sense to arbitrarily cut off the counting process before it was finished.”

Mr. West’s complaints about the race are beginning to gain broader attention, with Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner dispatching auditors to examine voting in St. Lucie.

Mr. Curry’s statement came a day after Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus issued his own statement supporting Mr. West’s call for an early-ballot recount, saying that’s the best way to convince voters the election was fair.

“This is not about any one candidate,” Mr. Priebus said. “It is about preserving and protecting the integrity of our democratic system. Regardless of the outcome, voters have the right to know the process was fair and that the results accurately reflect their will.”

Mr. West’s lawyers sent a letter to Mr. Detzner on Thursday saying that they have questions relating to nearly 1,000 votes after looking at absentee and early-voting records.

Several conservative leaders said they support Mr. West’s demand for a recount.

“I agree with West,” said Al Cardenas, chairman of the American Conservative Union and former chairman of the Florida GOP. “This is not just one candidate’s sour grapes. We need to get to the bottom of this, since the election results in Philadelphia, Cleveland, etc. smell rotten.”

Gertrude Walker, supervisor of elections in St. Lucie, has acknowledged problems, but said last weekend’s partial recount set that straight. In court filings this week, she said she is following the procedures laid out in Florida law and doesn’t have the authority to order a full recount right now.

She said Mr. West should wait until the results are certified, then challenge Mr. Murphy’s election.

Mr. West, a onetime Army lieutenant colonel who emerged as a hero of the anti-tax tea party movement when he entered the House two years ago, held a lead in early vote counts on election night. But by the time all precincts reported, he was down by about 2,400 votes. On Sunday, election officials recounted some of St. Lucie’s early-voting ballots and subtracted 667 votes from Mr. Murphy and 132 from Mr. West, for a net gain of 535 votes for the incumbent.

The new total still leaves Mr. West just outside the margin that under state law would trigger an automatic recount of all ballots across the entire district.

The 18th Congressional District spans all or parts of three counties, but only St. Lucie’s early-voting ballots are in question.

The county is scheduled to certify its results and send them on to the state, which will do a final certification on Tuesday.

The Florida Democratic Party didn’t return a message seeking comment on the escalating situation.

Mr. West has proved a stellar fundraiser, taking in millions of dollars for his re-election bid. Mr. Murphy, who attended a Capitol Hill orientation program for incoming freshmen this week, has sent out his own plea asking his supporters to contribute to what he said will likely be a long legal battle with Mr. West.

Florida, whose vote-counting problems were famously highlighted in the presidential election of 2000, encountered more problems in this year’s voting. Gov. Rick Scott has asked Mr. Detzner to investigate this year’s glitches, including long lines on Election Day in which some voters reportedly waited eight hours or more to vote.

Florida was the last state to report its presidential election totals, only officially announcing that President Obama narrowly won the state on Saturday, four days after the election.

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About the Author

Stephen Dinan

Stephen Dinan can be reached at sdinan@washingtontimes.com.

Sean Lengell

Sean Lengell covers Congress and national politics and can be reached at slengell@washingtontimes.com.

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