Controversy continues in the Florida 18th Congressional District race between incumbent Republican Allen West and Democratic challenger Patrick Murphy. Florida election officials reneged on their promise to count all the early ballots in the scandal-plagued election, excluding more than half of them without clear cause.
Late Saturday the St. Lucie County Canvassing Board announced an “emergency meeting” to “recount all ballots cast during early voting.” Approximately 37,000 early ballots were to be counted. The recount was made necessary after suspicions arose that the initial count had not been fair or accurate. There was also evidence indicating that more ballots had been counted than the number of voters who showed up at the polls. The latest count had Mr. Murphy ahead by approximately 2,400 votes, which is above the .5% margin that would trigger an automatic full recount under Florida law.
The early vote recount was scheduled to begin at 7 a.m. Sunday morning. However when observers arrived, election officials informed them that they would not conduct a full recount. They would only reseed (i.e., feed through the voting machines) the votes cast November 1-3. Officials cited Florida law that says that if there is a suspected counting error, only the affected ballots need to be recounted. However there is no way to confirm that the errors were limited only to ballots cast on those days.
Only 16,275 of the 37,000 early ballots were reseeded. In the revised ballot count there were more than 800 fewer votes. Mr. West lost 132, Mr. Murphy lost 667, and the rest were lost by other candidates. Given that election officials threw out 5% of the first batch of reseeded ballots, the remaining 20,000 should be recounted in the interests of accuracy. Arbitrarily excluding those ballots only sustains the suspicions that local election officials have something to hide. In a race this close it is imperative that every vote be counted fully, fairly and transparently.