Nov 11 UPDATE: Late Saturday Florida officials agreed to a full recount of early ballots then on Sunday abruptly excluded over half of them without clear reason.
Republican Congressman Allen West’s campaign is ready to “go to war” to get a recount in the Florida 18th Congressional District race. The latest twist to emerge from the ongoing vote count – in some precincts there are more ballots than voters.
Preliminary, unofficial vote totals were filed today in the neck and neck race between Mr. West and Democratic challenger Patrick Murphy. The Murphy campaign has already declared victory, but the numbers have not been officially certified and the count goes on. The West campaign believes that they are close to the .5% vote margin that will trigger an automatic recount under Florida election law.
The vote count has been marked by controversy. Poll watchers accuse local election officials of incompetence, intimidation and possible fraud. The latest twist is that in some precincts of St. Lucie County there appear to be dozens more ballots being counted than the number of voters. The West campaign is demanding St. Lucie County Supervisor of Elections Gertrude Walker release the voter poll books that show how many voters actually showed up on Election Day to validate the count. “What we are saying is, open your books!” a source close to the West campaign told The Washington Times.
The West team is “ready to go to war to get the recount,” according to Jeffrey Scott Shapiro, a volunteer lawyer for the West campaign speaking in an unofficial capacity. They are conducting a precinct-by-precinct statistical analysis of 18th district election results going back to 2006 to compare to the 2012 results. Evidence of dramatic shifts in voting patterns this year could provide a road map for follow-on investigations into possible vote irregularities.
Questions also persist regarding the military absentee ballots in Palm Beach County. Observers were banned without explanation from watching the ballots being opened. They were permitted to observe the counting process, however there was no way to know whether the absentee ballots that were produced were the same ones that were opened, or if all the ballots were produced. Lacking a transparent chain of custody of the military ballots it is impossible to validate that the votes cast by servicemen and women overseas are fairly and accurately being counted.
Local election officials have contributed to a climate of hostility and suspicion throughout the vote count process. “They have created reasonable suspicion to the point where we don’t feel comfortable,” Mr. Shapiro said. Election oversight is intended to maintain the integrity of the voting process. Ideally it would be a cooperative, transparent, bipartisan effort that seeks legitimate outcomes. But this vote count is far from ideal.
Meanwhile St. Lucie County Supervisor of Elections Gertrude Walker has gone to ground. No one is answering the phones at her office. She will not answer her cell phone and her voice-mail is full. She has hired an attorney, who has also been incommunicado. If there is another side to the story it has yet to be told.
UPDATE: An hour after this report was posted the St. Lucie County Canvassing Board agreed to an entire early-voting recount starting Sunday at 7 a.m. Most of the election-day problems with the vote count were among the early votes, including possible duplicate vote counts or over-counting. This recount will involve approximately 30,000 ballots.