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Florida Republican Rep. Allen B. West, the leading firebrand of the freshman class of 2010, won’t go quietly, if he goes at all.
With all the current ballots counted in his close race with Democratic businessman Patrick Murphy, he trailed by 1,907 votes on Monday, according to The Associated Press.
That put him outside the range of an automatic recount.
The AP has not called the race, and West is not conceding. His campaign alleges improprieties in the counting of ballots in St. Lucie County, where the supervisor of elections is a Democrat.
The West campaign said county officials had said they would recount all the early votes but subsequently counted only some of them.
“We are after the truth of what votes were cast by voters in St. Lucie County,” the campaign said in a statement Sunday, “and the conduct of the canvassing board today casts doubt on their reported numbers.”
Murphy has declared victory and will attend freshman orientation on Capitol Hill, which begins today.
Friday is the final deadline for counties to receive overseas ballots. On Nov. 18, 12 days after the election, state law requires each county to submit its official numbers to the secretary of state.
There are three counties in the newly configured 18th District, and each has its own independently elected, partisan supervisor of elections.
“It gets more complicated when you’re dealing with three elected officials,” said Daniel Smith, a professor of political science at the University of Florida and an expert on Sunshine State election law. “And not all counties operate on the same [voter registration software] system,” he said, noting that that could add complexity as the race unfolds.
After Nov. 18, Democrats expect Murphy to be officially certified as the winner by the Florida secretary of state’s office.
State law allows West to file an election contest in circuit court after that certification. There, he would have a high bar for success.
“If it doesn’t go to recount and he files a suit, the legal path is very narrow,” Smith said.
According to state statutes, West would have to prove that the election result was changed because of “[m]isconduct, fraud, or corruption” on the part of an election official; that an official was bribed to change the result; that votes that should have been counted were not; that a candidate was ineligible; or that votes that were counted should not have been.
Other legal challenges could also be filed before any results are certified.
West’s campaign used the ongoing controversy as a fundraising tool.