While Rep. Allen West fights for his political life by demanding more ballots be counted — and, in some cases, recounted —Patrick Murphy kicked off a tour of handshakes and thank-you’s Thursday celebrating the congressional seat he’s sure he has won.
West’s legal push for a recount was delayed Thursday evening when his hearing at Palm Beach County’s main courthouse was bumped to noon Friday. The Palm Beach Gardens Republican filed injunctions against the supervisors of elections in Palm Beach and St. Lucie to impound voting machines and ballots. West didn’t target Martin County, where he won by almost 11,000 votes.
As of Friday morning, a hearing was not scheduled for Friday in St. Lucie County and the courts are closed on Monday to celebrate Veteran’s Day.
Holding onto a razor-thin edge with all precincts reporting, Murphy started a three-day, three-county “thank-you” tour Thursday at his Palm Beach Gardens headquarters. The Jupiter Democrat said he was confident with his lead in District 18 and plans to go to Congress’s freshman orientation in Washington next week.
West announced the legal action 10 hours after Murphy declared himself the District 18 winner, which MSNBC confirmed.
“I look at it as a movement of moderation in our country,” Murphy said Thursday about the election results. “I think this is a signal to the public and really to Congress that we need people that are willing to compromise, willing to come together. The voters spoke, and we won this race.”
Shortly after the Palm Beach hearing was rescheduled, Murphy’s attorney filed paperwork to intervene. Murphy’s attorney Gerald Richman told The Palm Beach Post the court papers filed by West’s attorneys were riddled with errors, including failing to name a defendant, and saying that West would be “irreparably” harmed if the ballots and machines were not impounded.
Ken Spillias, attorney for Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher, filed court papers saying West’s “invitation for judicial intervention in the middle of an election is nothing short of an invitation to chaos,” according to the Post.
With 100 percent of precincts in, The Associated Press still has not declared a District 18 winner. After election night, Murphy garnered 160,328 votes to West’s 157,872. That’s a difference of 2,456. Percentage-wise, it’s 50.4 percent to 49.6 percent, or a 0.8 percent lead favoring Murphy.
Only a 0.5 percent margin of victory or less triggers a recount in Florida. Counties have to report unofficial results to the state by noon Saturday to determine that margin, said state Division of Elections spokesman Kevin Cate.
More vote counts are trickling in, however. West gained a net 300 votes from Palm Beach provisional and absentee ballots Wednesday, West campaign manager Tim Edson said and The Palm Beach Post reported. That put the margin at 0.66 percent. Martin County approved 90 provisional ballots out of 224 they examined Thursday, which only budged the margin one vote in favor of Murphy.
Provisional ballots are cast during an election but not counted because of irregularities. They can be disallowed if, for example, a voter votes in the wrong precinct or has been dropped from the elections rolls for failure to vote in the past three consecutive federal elections.
St. Lucie had 691 provisional and 309 unread ballots to examine heading into a late Thursday night canvassing board meeting.
In addition to provisionals, Edson pointed out there are still military ballots to be counted. Those can be accepted until Nov. 12. Contrary to Murphy’s campaign position, Edson said “this thing will probably end up in recount territory.”
West, who never showed up to address his own election night party of 500 attendees and has laid low since, emerged on national airwaves Thursday.
“I’ve been in combat, so this is not a stressful situation for me,” West told Fox News Radio.
“We want to make sure that there’s a fair and open electoral process. There are some violations of Florida state law, and I think it’s important that be brought to the attention of the constituents.”
West specifically targeted St. Lucie County Supervisor of Elections Gertrude Walker in a news release demanding a recount. He made allegations about her “hostility and demonstrated incompetence,” and called their office “complete chaos” on election night.
The campaign questioned how the office recounted early votes after they didn’t load correctly the first time. West’s campaign also said the elections office locked the door to polling places, which Edson said was “in direct violation of Florida law, thereby preventing the public from witnessing the procedures used to tabulate results.”
“I certainly feel that none of (the accusations) are valid,” Walker said Wednesday. “I feel that the process went as it should have.”
Murphy was comfortable calling it a win. But an expensive legal battle could loom, the campaign warned supporters via email.
Both Murphy and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee have sent fundraising emails for the ensuing legal costs. West, who raised about $17 million, still has $3.4 million in his campaign account as of Oct. 17. Murphy, who accumulated $3.6 million, has about $243,300 left.
“We would not be asking for more funds if it was not so urgent,” Murphy’s fundraising email read. “We threw everything we had at winning in the last few days. We can’t let West try to take away our voices just because he has millions in the bank. Please consider a gift today.”
Via Nora McAlvanah of FLDemocracy2012.com. The Palm Beach Post and staff writers Zaimarie De Guzman, Laurie K. Blandford, Tyler Treadway and Melissa Holsman contributed to this report.