Florida sends auditors to investigate voting irregularities, as Rep. West holds out hope

Florida has sent state election auditors into the state’s 18th Congressional District to investigate early-voting irregularities that have resulted in disputed results in race between Republican Rep. Allen West and Democratic challenger Patrick Murphy.

The unofficial tally shows Murphy winning the race by 1,907 votes, outside the margin that would trigger an automatic recount of all ballots.

Three state officials were ordered to St. Lucie County by Secretary of State Ken Detzner – a defendant in the court case West filed Tuesday.

“We applaud your decision to exercise your authority to send auditors to St. Lucie County to examine election returns and the ballot-counting process,” attorneys at the Washington-area firm Hotlzman Vogel Josefiak told Detzner in a letter.

The 18th District race was among the most hard-hitting and expensive races this election cycle. The two sides raised at least $21 million, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, and Super PACs poured about $6.6 million more into the race.

West, a first-term Republican congressman, is a Tea Party favorite known for his strong criticism of President Obama and other Democrats.

St. Lucie County officials recounted three days of early voting – from Nov. 1 to Nov. 3 – following the discovery that machines doubled counted some ballots.

West reportedly gained 132 votes and Murphy lost 667 in the recount Sunday of 16,275 votes, though the West campaign claims the vote count dropped by roughly 1,000 ballots.

Murphy’s margin of victory is still above the threshold to trigger a full recount. But the West campaign argues the full eight days should be recounted, considering the pattern that unfolded during the partial recount.

The suit seeks a temporary injunction to get a full recount of all early voting in St. Lucie and asks the state to postpone certifying the district-wide tally until the process in complete. Martin and Palm Beach counties also are part of the newly-redrawn district.

The disputed outcome made for some awkwardness on Capitol Hill this week, because West has returned for the lame duck session while Murphy is attending freshman orientation.