By Dawn Krebs
ST. LUCIE COUNTY -- It was a long weekend for the St. Lucie County canvassing board, after it recounted all eight days of early voting ballots in the District 18 House race between U.S. Rep. Allen West, R-Palm Beach Gardens and challenger Patrick Murphy.
The unofficial results showed Mr. Murphy not only maintaining his lead from a previous recount, but increasing it by 242 votes. The final results in the county showed Mr. Murphy with 65,841 votes, while Rep. West received 52,704 votes.
In other related news, Supervisor of Elections Gertrude Walker was hospitalized on Nov. 16 for undisclosed reasons. An employee with the elections office said on Nov. 19 that "she is doing better." It has not yet been determined when Ms. Walker will to return to work.
Both campaigns issued prepared statements about the outcome.
"Since Election Day, we have been working for a fair and accurate accounting of the election outcome in which voters can put their full trust," Rep. West wrote. "We will review the results and other available data to determine how to proceed."
"The congressman needs to come to grips with the reality that he lost," said Anthony Kusich, Mr. Murphy's campaign manager.
"No matter which results Allen West looks at, he's lost. This recount should once and for all lay to rest the false claims that West somehow was 'cheated' out of a seat in Congress," he said. "It is beyond time to put this campaign behind us and put the interests of the people of the Treasure Coast and Palm Beaches first."
As of press time, Rep. West had not conceded the race.
On Nov. 16, supporters of Rep. West picketed outside the St. Lucie County Courthouse, while inside, the congressman's challenge for a recount of all of St. Lucie County's early and absentee votes was denied on the afternoon of Nov. 16.
After listening to legal counsel for Mr. Murphy and Rep. West present their sides for more than an hour, Judge Dan Vaughn took another hour to look over the materials provided, then rendered his decision.
"I carefully considered the pleadings," Judge Vaughn said. "For what it's worth, I appreciate the significance of this."
He also stated he read the transcript of the Palm Beach County court proceeding, where the congressman was denied an injunction on Nov. 9 to impound the county's voting machines and ballots there.
"In my view, Mr. West and the other plaintiffs have not established sufficient evidence," Judge Vaughn said. He went on to state he "simply doesn't have the authority to grant the request under the circumstances."
He also stressed his decisions should not affect future actions of the county's canvassing board who met later that afternoon.
"This cannot bind the canvassing board," Judge Vaughn said. "I trust that they are aware of their duties and obligations."
At their meeting, the board decided to recount all the early voting ballots, and began early on the morning of Nov. 17. They reconvened to finish on Nov. 18 and according to an employee in the supervisor of elections office, were able to send the final results to the state in time to meet the Nov. 18 noon deadline.
In the Nov. 6 election, Congressman West lost by 0.8 percent of the total votes. In the unofficial results, Congressman West received 157,872 votes or 49.6 percent to Mr. Murphy's 160, 328 or 50.4 percent, a difference of 2,456 votes.
In St. Lucie County, the congressional race was part of a retabulation of ballots the St. Lucie County Supervisor of Elections conducted on Nov. 11, because some issues, such as the memory cards that were being used on certain days, did not transfer the data like they were supposed to.
The canvassing board only retabulated the early ballots that were cast from Nov. 1 through Nov. 3, which were the early voting days in question.
As a result of the retabulation, Congressman West lost 132 votes in St. Lucie, while Mr. Murphy lost 667. But while the gap between the two candidates closed slightly, it was still a .57 percent difference, and wasn't enough to trigger an automatic recount, which requires one half of one percent or less.
On Nov. 13, Rep. West filed a lawsuit demanding a recount of all the early votes in St. Lucie County. The county canvassing board had to certify the final results by noon on Nov. 18 and the state issued its final certification numbers by Nov. 20.
Rep. West is currently in Washington, D.C., serving in Congress, while Mr. Murphy returned to his temporary office in Palm Beach Gardens.