A Florida judge on Friday denied Republican Rep. Allen West's plea for a full recount of early voting ballots in St. Lucie County, saying he didn't have authority to grant the request, according to the Palm Beach Post.
After last weeks' election Mr. West, a one-term congressman and tea party favorite, trails Democratic challenger Patrick Murphy by about 1,900 votes, or just outside the margin needed for an automatic recount under state law.
St. Lucie, one of three counties that have precincts in the 18th congressional district, had problems counting ballots from early voting, and did a recount of three days' worth of ballots, but Mr. West wants a recount of all eight days.
The county canvassing board is slated to meet later Friday to decide whether it will order a full recount. Mr. Murphy's lawyer, though, said the Democrat would try to block that recount should the board order it.
The head of both the national Democratic and Republican party committees have weighed in on the increasingly partisan battle, with Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz slamming Florida GOP Gov. Rick Scott for what she said was an effort to tip the battle in favor of Mr. West. The governor has dispatched a state inspection team to conduct a three-day audit of the results of the district's performance in counting the votes.
"In a clear effort to overturn an election result after having lost at the ballot box, Allen West has now run to [Mr. Scott] to needlessly interfere with and politicize a non-partisan election process," said Ms. Wasserman Schultz, who is also a congresswoman from the state.
The governor "needs to remove himself from this process immediately," she said.
Rep. Alcee Hastings, another leading Florida Democrat, said in a statement that the governor's actions were "yet another blatant display of his willingness to disregard the rule of law for political gain."
In a sign the fight in the 18th District is unlikely to die down soon, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus earlier this week weighed in on Mr. West's behalf, noting widely reported irregularities in the first announced counting of early-voting ballots in St. Lucie, where Mr. Murphy ran strongly. The Florida Republican Party is also strongly backing Mr. West's challenge.
"This is not about any one candidate," Mr. Priebus contended. "…Regardless of the outcome, voters have the right to know the process was fair and that the results accurately reflect their will."
St. Lucie Elections Supervisor Getrude Walker argued in court Friday that she doesn't have the authority to order a recount, and said Mr. West should wait until next week, when the results are officially certified, to make a challenge.
Mr. West, in a court motion filed Thursday, said under his reading of state law, in any precinct where there is an error, the canvassing board should order "a retabulation of the returns." He said in the case of early voting, that should cover all eight days.
The Palm Beach Post account of the hearing can be found at http://www.postonpolitics.com/2012/11/judge-denies-allen-wests-recount-request-focus-now-on-4-p-m-canvassing-board-meeting/.
— David Sands contributed to this report.
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