Recount underway of early balloting in Rep. West's disputed Florida re-election bid

A recount of early votes is being conducted Saturday in Republican Rep. Allen West’s disputed re-election bid in Florida.

St. Lucie County is recounting all of its early-voting ballots after election officials voted late Friday in favor of the move.

County election officials made the decision just hours after a Florida circuit judge declined to order a recount in the state’s 18th congressional district, where West is seeking re-election against Democratic challenger Patrick Murphy.

The West campaign suspected voting irregularities following a wild swing in balloting election night in which West led Murphy by roughly 2,000 votes, then trailed by roughly 2,400 about 35 minute later.

Florida officials on Nov. 10 declared Murphy the unofficial winner by 1,907 votes, beyond the margin for a full recount. However, St. Lucie officials agreed to recount three days of early voting after acknowledging machines had double counted some ballots.

After the recount Sunday of 16,275 votes reportedly gave West 132 votes and took 667 from Murphy, the West campaign called for the recount of all eight days.

However, St. Lucie election officials declined to order a recount of absentee ballots, which the first-term congressman had requested.

The newly redrawn district also includes Martin and Palm Beach counties.

The 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 is a Tea Party favorite known for his strong criticism of President Obama and other Democrats.

Attorneys for Murphy fought the recount, which isn't mandated under state law because of the margin.

West campaign manager Tim Edson responded by saying, “In a last-ditch effort to suppress the vote, Murphy's lawyers submitted sloppy and incomplete papers to the court this morning to try to strong-arm the judge into preventing today's re-tabulation already underway. … Perhaps the Justice Department should investigate Murphy's attempt to steal himself a seat in Congress at the expense of the voters in St. Lucie County."

The county has until Sunday to certify its results and send them to the state, where a final commission will certify them and send them to Washington. Florida law still allows 10 days after that second certification for a candidate to challenge a vote, according to The Washington Times.