Reporting Joan Murray
WEST PALM BEACH (CBSMiami) – A Palm Beach County Judge has rejected a request by lawyers for Republican Congressman Allen West’s campaign to impound voting machines and recount paper ballots.
The ruling came shortly after 1:00 p.m. Friday after a brief hearing. Circuit judge David Crow did not think the West campaign had sufficient proof to grant the injunction.
“The law is clear: The manner and method of conducting an election, the process of recounting ballots, the process of contesting an election is specifically a legislative function,” Crow said. “Courts should not get involved in the election process.”
West’s lawyers were also set to appear in court Friday in St. Lucie County over what they described as irregularities in voting. However, the judge in the case wasn’t prepared and delayed the St. Lucie hearing.
The election results from Palm Beach and St. Lucie Counties are expected to be certified by the state in the days ahead.
At that point, the West campaign can launch another legal challenge, but will need clear proof that there were serious problems, according to CBS4′s Joan Murray.
Murphy currently leads West 50.39% to 49.61% in the race for the District 18 Congressional seat. Murphy received 160,328 votes to West’s 157,872 votes.
Murphy’s lead is currently outside the legally mandate level for a recount. An election must finish within a half-point to go to a state-mandate recount.
“I think this is basically, I hate to say it, but a kind of a political stunt,” said Gerald Richman, an attorney for Murphy. “There was nothing here. They had no evidence. They had no basis. There’s no basis in law and fact.”
Palm Beach County poll workers were still checking ballots on Friday trying to get a preliminary result to the state by 3 p.m.
Outside of the canvassing board office there was a roomful of poll watchers who are keeping a close eye on the process. Many in the audience are Allen West supporters and they don’t like what they see.
“How can you have confidence in the process when they are copying and recopying,” wondered West supporter Beverly Hires.
But the supervisor’s attorney says they are following the law and the process does have integrity.
“We have two people copying and then six sets of eyes reviewing with the canvassing board,” declared Ken Spillias.
West is fighting to keep his seat in Congress after becoming the darling of the Tea Party movement in 2010. His fiery speeches and outrageous claims have endeared him to some voters and made others loathe him.
Even in the face of Friday’s defeat, West’s attorney, Shari McCarthy said they got what they wanted in the hearing.
“We sought today assurances from the court and, indeed, from the defendants, that all the policies and procedures and the statutes would be adhered to, that we’d follow the law, it would be transparent, it would be done with integrity,” McCarthy said after the hearing. “We got that. We’re thrilled.”
McCarthy said there would be no appeal of the ruling issued Friday.
Meanwhile, Patrick Murphy said he still believes he was the winner of Tuesday’s election. However, Murphy is appealing to his backers to contribute to his legal defense fund to fight West’s challenge.
Murphy said he was planning to head to Washington next week for his initial House of Representatives orientation.
UPDATE: Allen West campaign manager Tim Edson issued a statement late Friday that accused St. Lucie County of possibly trying to cover something up. The statement read in part:
“It is just curious that all of a sudden at 12 a.m. on Wednesday morning, the county decided to re-run a number of early voting ballots, taking West’s tally from up 1,700 vs. Murphy to down 2,400. A key question that needs to be answered is does the poll book count match the votes cast. The fact that Walker (St. Lucie Supervisor of Elections Gertrude Walker) has been huddling behind closed doors with her attorney, rather than completing the vote count is disconcerting to say the least. If you have nothing to hide, you don’t hide.”