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Allen West may drag out challenge to Florida District 18 results for months

11/13/2012

Decisive lead or not, District 18 unofficial winner Patrick Murphy can expect Allen West to keep sparring with elections officials in court for at least a few weeks, according to a Nova Southeastern University constitutional lawyer.

The Republican Palm Beach Gardens congressman could even stretch it out for months by pleading his case to the U.S. House of Representatives. He could take the battle into 2013 by challenging Murphy's January swearing into Congress.

But ultimately, Bob Jarvis of Nova Southeastern's law school said, neither the courts nor Congress likely will entertain much of West's argument. Any ballot issues affected both candidates, he said, and the House historically doesn't overturn election results.

"Whatever disadvantages (West) was working under, Murphy was working under," Jarvis said. "The court is really only interested when there is obvious bias where it's clear. If one candidate's name is left off the ballot, well then obviously you have a real problem."

After a partial recount Sunday in St. Lucie County, West trailed Murphy by 1,907 votes, or 0.57 percent, across the Martin-St. Lucie-northern Palm Beach district. West lost 132 votes and his Democratic Jupiter opponent dropped 667 with the re-tally of early ballots from Nov. 1 through 3.

Murphy's lead was still large enough to prevent a state-required automatic recount across the entire district. That only occurs when the lead is 0.5 percent or less. A few military and overseas ballots are due to supervisors by Friday and still need to be counted. But the unofficial results Saturday determine if a race is eligible for a recount. If court ordered, a recount could occur Wednesday.

In the first legal defeat, a Palm Beach County Circuit Court judge dismissed West's motion Friday to impound ballots and voting machines for a potential recount. Judge David F. Crow called the request "entirely premature" because unofficial results, which came in Saturday at noon, weren't available at the time. He said West's legal team presented no evidence that Florida election law had been breached, and added that the courts are supposed to stay largely out of elections.

The same motion was filed in St. Lucie County circuit court, but no hearing has been scheduled. Asked if he will keep pursuing legal action in St. Lucie if his motion is denied, West said Saturday, "We have to sit down and talk about it."

West campaign manager Tim Edson called St. Lucie's recount a sham. West's campaign had called into question a different set of ballots from Oct. 27 through 29. Edson also thought the elections office had ordered a recount of all early votes, but instead only a select group were recounted. Additionally, the campaign ordered a comparison of total voter signatures with total ballots counted, to see if the numbers match.

"West for Congress will pursue every legal means necessary to ensure a fair election," Edson said, "not only to ensure (St. Lucie County Supervisor of Elections) Gertrude Walker is held accountable, but also ultimately replaced, so the citizens of St. Lucie County will be ensured fair and accurate elections."

U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney, a Tequesta Republican who represents much of Martin and St. Lucie now, said West had good reason to question results.

"If there's a question out there, put the question to rest and let's move forward with a clear conscience," Rooney said.

With unofficial numbers finalized and results due for certification Friday, West's upcoming legal challenges will likely concern ballot confusion and suppression of the vote, Jarvis said.

But Jarvis said elections officials are required to oversee "reasonably well-run elections," not perfect elections. He added that the 2000 presidential case Bush v. Gore set the standard for this type of challenge.

"With the whole notion of the Palm Beach butterfly ballot, every candidate was disadvantaged," Jarvis said. "That wasn't a ballot that clearly tilted in somebody's favor. ... For the most part, courts do take a very hands-off approach."

by Anonymousreply 811/14/2012

This is the Secretary of State of Florida's problem now; not Murphy's. He's done and has been certified the winner by the Secretary. Allen West can cause all the problems he wants: he will not be seated again as a congressman, and he is finished in public office forever.

by Anonymousreply 111/14/2012

Darn! I thought this read, "Allen West may do drag and go out."

by Anonymousreply 211/14/2012

Can the certification be challenged once it is made, R1, or is it set in stone?

I'm assuming there is legal provision for a judge to overrule it in rare cases.

by Anonymousreply 311/14/2012

Allen West is a very angry man. He strikes me as the wifebeating type.

by Anonymousreply 411/14/2012

Wasn't he given a dishonorable discharge or something, R4?

by Anonymousreply 511/14/2012

Look forward to him being out of the House. (Next Congress convenes in early-January.) He doesn't have any credibility on this. So the more he goes one, the more it permanently removes him from any future in electoral politics. He can go sell himself to special interests. (Which is what many do after the career ends in Congress.)

by Anonymousreply 611/14/2012

well, not sure about the wifebeating part, but he did write a letter to his wife while on deployment demanding that she be his pornstar.

His wife is a doctor and I wonder how that bode well with her.

by Anonymousreply 711/14/2012

A judge can overrule it, but until then, since the Secretary of State for Florida certified him as the winner, Murphy is the official Representative-elect and he will be seated in January. And West is out on his ass.

by Anonymousreply 811/14/2012
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