I was glad to see Joan front-page an item on the FL-18 race yesterday, and I hope it raised some much-needed funds. I'm going to try my best to lay out all of today's developments and the road ahead in this thing. I'm here in the district and trying my best to get first-hand information on what's happening.
Update: Please check out Joan's new diary too, it's got a little more info, we appear to be on the same schedule, here!
Update 2: Please check Ubiquitous A's Diary for a great analysis of today's events.
A brief bit of background in case you haven't seen the story from the West/Murphy race yet:
Democratic challenger Patrick Murphy ended Election night with a lead of 2456 votes in his race against Allen West for the newly-drawn 18th Congressional District of Florida. This margin was sufficient to overcome the percentage of the vote needed to automatically trigger a recount, but West has filed a number of legal challenges to various aspects of the election, and has not conceded the race.So that's pretty much where we are.
Murphy declared himself the winner and several media outlets called the race for him late on Election night, and is holding victory celebrations in the district, but his staff is, of course, working behind the scenes to ensure the results of the election stand.
Here's what's happening today:
A hearing is scheduled for noon in Palm Beach County to rule on an injunction West filed to impound all ballots and voting machines, etc, pending a possible recount. Pending the outcome of that hearing,the equipment and ballots are STILL being held under guard. Live Stream of hearing here:
Updated WPTV Story here
Update: Motion Denied. Judge instructs West to avail himself of the legislatively-defined process for contesting election. A win!
A similar injunction was filed in Saint Lucie County,
that hearing is set for 5 PM tonight There is now no scheduled time for the hearing, though this could change.
I expect the legal focus will be on Saint Lucie County, since West Campaign manager Tim Edson has already telegraphed their strategy by attacking the SOE there:
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.West has made accusations, disputed by the Saint Lucie Sheriff's Department, that a polling place, the Minsky Gym in Port Saint Lucie, barred its doors early and turned away voters prior to 7 pm. Nothing supporting it that I'm aware of, but expect to hear about it. My understanding is there were about 25 voters who arrived after 7 and were not allowed to get in line, per State law, and the SO asked them to leave (they complied,) but that's not the same thing as what they're arguing here.
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."
There have been some developments in the vote count, per the local news, TCPalm:
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... St. Lucie had 691 provisional and 309 unread ballots to examine heading into a late Thursday night canvassing board meeting.That, of course, still puts the election out of the State mandated recount margin.
Another important deadline in the matter will be Noon tomorrow, when the SOEs and canvassing boards are required to report results to the State.
I'd expect that all the above legal proceedings will be continued until that time, the motion was denied, but for the same reason, essentially, since the West campaign has already gotten what they wanted, in terms of securing the voting machines and ballots, and there's not any further recourse for them in court - they need to wait for the results to be certified and then contest the election via the legal path outlined below. It's possible that everything could be on hold until Nov 12, when Military ballots are required to be in. That's something I imagine West will hold out for, as well.
Basically, there is no mechanism in FL Election Law that allows West to demand a recount if the result the canvassing board reaches is outside the 0.5% margin.
Here's the relevant statute on recounts:
(7) If the unofficial returns reflect that a candidate forRegarding contesting Races, it appears to be a tough sell for West here, too, as only four reasons are given as to why you can do so - Misconduct or fraud on the part of the canvas board, Opponent ineligibility, proof of illegal voting, and bribing an election official. I don't think he's got proof of any of those things.
any office was defeated or eliminated by one-half of a
percent or less of the votes cast for such office, that a
candidate for retention to a judicial office was retained or
not retained by one-half of a percent or less of the votes
cast on the question of retention, or that a measure
appearing on the ballot was approved or rejected by
one-half of a percent or less of the votes cast on such
measure, a recount shall be ordered of the votes cast
with respect to such office or measure. The Secretary of
State is responsible for ordering recounts in federal,
state, and multicounty races. The county canvassing
board or the local board responsible for certifying the
election is responsible for ordering recounts in all other
102.168 Contest of election.—So, that said, we'll know a little more later today, but I don't expect to know MUCH more. I'm going to try to get over to a Murphy event tonight at 6, and see if I can get any information on the latest legal maneuvering and state of things from his staff. I'll also try to update this diary after the results of those hearings.
(1) Except as provided in s. 102.171, the certification
of election or nomination of any person to office, or of
the result on any question submitted by referendum,
may be contested in the circuit court by any unsuccess
ful candidate for such office or nomination thereto or by
any elector qualified to vote in the election related to
such candidacy, or by any taxpayer, respectively.
(2) Such contestant shall file a complaint, together
with the fees prescribed in chapter 28, with the clerk of
the circuit court within 10 days after midnight of the date
the last board responsible for certifying the results
officially certifies the results of the election being
(3) The complaint shall set forth the grounds on
which the contestant intends to establish his or her right
to such office or set aside the result of the election on a
submitted referendum. The grounds for contesting an
election under this section are:
(a) Misconduct, fraud, or corruption on the part of
any election official or any member of the canvassing
board sufficient to change or place in doubt the result of
(b) Ineligibility of the successful candidate for the
nomination or office in dispute.
(c) Receipt of a number of illegal votes or rejection of
a number of legal votes sufficient to change or place in
doubt the result of the election.
(d) Proof that any elector, election official, or canvas
sing board member was given or offered a bribe or
reward in money, property, or any other thing of value
for the purpose of procuring the successful candidate’s
nomination or election or determining the result on any
question submitted by referendum.
In the meantime, I'll restate my appeal to anyone reading this to PLEASE consider kicking in a small donation to help with the legal fight that may be coming here.