- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Florida’s secretary of state dispatched auditors Wednesday to try to get to the bottom of voting irregularities in St. Lucie County, where Rep. Allen B. West trails in vote-counting after last week’s election but says there are too many questions for him to concede.

The first-term Republican has asked a court to halt certification of a winner and to order a full hand recount of all early voting in St. Lucie after a partial recount this weekend, designed to clear up matters, raised even more questions about the vote tally.

As of now, Democrat Patrick Murphy leads Mr. West by 1,907 votes, or slightly more than half of a percent — which is the margin that would have triggered an automatic recount.

Mr. West said his legal fight is about protecting the integrity of the voting process and “not about me.”

“When we get to the point where people don’t have trust and confidence in the electoral process in the United States of America, then we’re no better than Zimbabwe,” Mr. West told reporters at the Capitol Wednesday. “If I can do anything it’s to make sure that we can ensure that integrity.”

Mr. West held a lead in early vote counts, but by the time all precincts reported, he was down by about 2,400 votes. Florida’s 18th Congressional District includes all or part of three counties, but only St. Lucie ballots are in question. On Sunday, county election officials recounted votes there from three days of early voting, and the exercise resulted in Mr. Murphy losing 667 votes while Mr. West lost 132, for a net gain of 535 votes for the Republican.

Chris Cate, a spokesman for Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner, said the three representatives are looking into how votes were tabulated in the race and whether voting equipment worked properly. The officials will stay until Sunday.

“What we’re seeing in St. Lucie County is certainly not the norm,” Mr. Cate said. “They’re the only county we’re sending three employees to right now and the only county that stands out in this way.”

Florida’s election canvassing commission is scheduled to meet Tuesday to certify results.

Mr. West isn’t the only one who has filed a lawsuit to try to force a recount.

Vince Gaskin, who is running for mayor of Fort Pierce, asked a judge to force a full hand recount of votes in his race, which shows him trailing Linda Hudson.

Mr. Gaskin said an initial recount on Sunday only confused things more and said another recount Wednesday exposed more problems, including five lost ballots.

“I don’t know why it’s so messy. All we’re trying to show is there are too many discrepancies for there not to be a manual hand count along with the machine count to get this thing sorted out.

“What I think is going on is a lot of problems that are being compounded because nobody’s answering questions,” he said. “The voters are getting discouraged, as well as myself.”

Gertrude Walker, St. Lucie supervisor of elections, didn’t return an email message seeking comment, and the phone at her office rang without answer.

Mr. Murphy is bracing for an extended legal fight.

His campaign sent a fundraising email Wednesday pleading with supporters to donate the hundreds of thousands of dollars they say it could take to go through a court battle.

Mr. West said he thinks a mix of sloppiness, incompetence and malfeasance is behind the discrepancy in the vote counts.

“The bottom line is this: We just want to make sure we get that early-voting recount done, and that’s all we asked for,” he said. “We’re asking for something that is very simple. And I think that the state should not go down the path of certifying this election until the questions of the voters are answered.”

When asked if he thinks he won the election, Mr. West responded that “someone has to explain to me a 4,400-vote swing at 1-o’clock in the morning in about a 30-to-35-minute time period.”

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