FORT PIERCE — A judge today denied U.S. Rep. Allen West‘s request that he order a recount of 37,379 ballots from early voting in St. Lucie County — effectively leaving the decision up to the county’s canvassing board, which meets today at 4 p.m. Circuit Judge Dan Vaughn said he did not have the authority to order the recount, which West wanted after problems emerged in the counting of early votes on election night. After West filed his complaint Tuesday in St. Lucie County circuit court, the canvassing board on Thursday scheduled a meeting for this afternoon to consider a full recount of early votes. Unofficial returns show Democrat Patrick Murphy leading the race by 1,907 votes or 0.58 percent. St. Lucie County is one of three counties in congressional District 18. The district also includes Martin County and northern Palm Beach County. Murphy attorney Gerald Richman said in court today that if the canvassing board orders a full recount of early votes this afternoon, the Murphy campaign will go to court to try to block it. The canvassing board last Saturday announced a full recount of early votes after some were double-counted and others were ignored on election night. But on Sunday, the board reversed course and decided to only recount 16,275 ballots from three of the eight days of early voting. That recount resulted in 799 early votes vanishing from the West-Murphy race. West argued the irregularities that came to light in the partial recount merited a full recount. West’s attorneys also asked for a recount of approximately 37,000 absentee ballots, but Vaughn did not render a decision on that petition. In an amended complaint filed this morning, the West campaign says its review of absentee ballot records shows “significant problems” with those ballots as well the early votes. The West camp says that in some precincts, the number of absentee votes recorded exceeds the number of voters who are listed as casting absentee ballots. Under Florida law, a candidate must be within 0.5 percent to merit a recount. Murphy’s margin is larger. The West campaign technically wanted the judge — and now the canvassing board — for a “retabulation” under Florida statutes, which allow a county to conduct such an exercise if it finds errors in its initial tabulation of votes.
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