Published November 11, 2012
Election officials in Florida are recounting some early votes cast in the hotly contested race for the state's 18th district's House seat between Tea Party favorite Rep. Allen West and Democratic challenger Patrick Murphy.
The St. Lucie County Canvassing Board began the partial recount Sunday morning and results have yet to be reported.
The number of early ballots in the county is estimated by officials to be roughly 37,000.
West, a Republican who has refused to concede the race, is trailing Murphy by 2,442 votes, according to the latest results from Florida Division of Elections. On its website, the agency says West has garnered 164,448 votes to Murphy’s 166,890.
Although the unofficial count reported to the state Saturday gave the win Murphy, at a margin outside the threshold for a recount, St. Lucie County agreed to a limited recount to settle concerns over a problem processing some of the early ballots. Election officials said they were taking the step "out of an abundance of caution."
The official notice of the recount stated all early votes would be included, but officials then decided to feed only three days of ballots into scanners.
West's campaign objected to the dates being recounted, the absence of a full recount of early votes and the county's refusal to turn over some other documentation requested.
Heather Young, an assistant county attorney, then said all dates affected by an Election Night failure in loading memory cards are being included in Sunday's count, but a protracted legal fight by West appeared more likely with each passing day.
"What's going on today is a sham. It does nothing to address all the concerns we have," West campaign manager Tim Edson said. "We'll take every legal action necessary."
St. Lucie is one of three counties included in the district. It is the one West's campaign has focused the most attention on because it is the only county Murphy won.
The Democrat had 50.4 percent of the vote in the race to unseat the first-term tea party favorite.
The race was the country's most expensive House race and one of the most closely watched.
The two sides had raised nearly $21 million as of Oct. 17, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, and Super PACs poured in about $6.6 million.
West, 51, is one of only two black Republicans in the House. He had a constant string of headline-grabbing statements, from calling a majority of congressional Democrats communists to saying President Barack Obama, Rep. Nancy Pelosi and others should "get the hell out of the United States."
Murphy, 29, was a political newcomer who portrayed West as an extremist who has done little else in Washington than stoke partisan fires.
Even if the results of the partial recount do not change the race, West still has the option to contest the election if misconduct or fraud might have changed its result.
A judge on Friday denied West’s request to impound ballots and voting machines. The state tally in the Florida’s redrawn 18th congressional district follows additional vote counting in Palm Beach County.
County election officials worked until early Saturday morning to count absentee and problems ballots as well as uncounted ballots from early voting and Election Day, according to The Palm Beach Post. The district also includes parts of Martin County, along the state’s so-called Gold Coast.
The group Revive America has rallied to support West should he mount a legal challenge. The conservative group sent out an email Saturday calling for donations and saying Washington Republicans are now giving West little help.
“Dear Patriot,” the email begins. “Conservative hero Allen West is in the midst of a brutal recount. … The liberals threw everything they had at him in this election and couldn't defeat him outright. So now they are trying to STEAL this election.”
Circuit Judge David Crow on Friday called the West’s motion "entirely premature," saying that vote-counting procedures are in place and being followed. An attorney for West said the campaign was simply trying to make sure the election is fair and transparent.
An attorney for Murphy called West's legal actions a "political stunt." Murphy also filed papers, stating West's court documents were riddled with errors and that he failed to give a single reason his request is valid.
The Palm Beach County Canvassing Board said earlier there was no reason to impound ballots and voting machines when officials have yet to finish counting.
West appeared to hold the slimmest of leads going into the final weeks of the race, despite his Tea Party status that made him a target for Democrats. The non-partisan Rothberg Political Report has the race as “toss-up/ leaning Republican.”
However, the Murphy campaign argues West was fading in the homestretch -- citing two recent polls that show Murphy leading, including a Sept. 30 one released by Republican pollster Kimball Political Consulting that found Murphy leading 49-45 percent.
West’s hard-hitting campaign, after his 2010 victory, was marked by powerful ads, including one that showed a 2003 mug shot of Murphy after he was ejected from a South Beach bar for being drunk, then arrested after a confrontation with police.
Fox News' Eric Shawn and The Associated Press contributed to this report.