True the Vote sues for inspection of West-Murphy election records

True the Vote, a group dedicated to protecting ballot integrity and ensuring fair election contests, has filed suit against the St. Lucie County Supervisor of Elections in Florida.  The suit demands the release of “all records pertaining to the recent 18th Congressional District election and subsequent recounts between Rep. Allen West and Patrick Murphy be reviewed in order to perform a comprehensive third-party audit.”

True the Vote president Catherine Engelbrecht released a video statement announcing the lawsuit and laying out her group’s criticism of St. Lucie elections officials:

Engelbrecht stressed that she doesn’t expect to overturn the results of the election, which Murphy narrowly won after the tortured recount process she describes.  She wants full details of the procedure made public for the benefit of future elections.  “This dramatic recount was an extraordinary example of how our elections can suffer systematic failure,??? Engelbrecht said. ???We run the risk seeing episodes like this becoming ordinary if citizens do not demand answers and hold election officials accountable. The American people own the voting system ??? we have the right to ask tough questions when we witness the failure of one of America???s core functions.”

She noted that the “clock is ticking” for a comprehensive audit of the election, because “each passing day heightens the risk of critical documents being disposed of.”

True the Vote’s press release includes a chronology of the election and its aftermath, highlighting the irregularities they wish to investigate:

On November 6, St. Lucie County election administrators admitted that ballot tabulation machines suffered a malfunction, preventing early vote totals from being properly counted. County workers were forced to hand-feed ballots into tabulation machines as a result.

On November 8, West demanded a full recount of early votes and copies of poll sign-in records to compare voter participation against ballots cast.  West’s requests were denied and ignored, respectively.

On November 9, West demanded that a Florida state court impound all ballots and voting machines, but made no claims of the sort True the Vote makes today in federal court. West???s requests in state court were denied.

On November 10, St. Lucie County ???unofficially certified??? the vote count for CD-18 and publicly acknowledged ???uncertainty??? over the early vote totals. St. Lucie County called an emergency meeting to ???recount all ballots cast during early voting.??? The county later reversed itself, only performing a partial retabulation. After the partial retabulation, the lead for Patrick Murphy decreased.

On November 13, Defendant Gertrude Walker held a press conference admitting that her staff acted with ???haste??? and that ???mistakes were made??? throughout the tabulation and partial recount process. Florida Division of Elections auditors were dispatched to investigate how 799 votes disappeared or changed hands during the partial recount.

On November 16, Defendant Walker claimed to find 306 early votes in a box at her office that had not been counted. The St. Lucie County Canvassing Board ordered a recount of all early votes, with a deadline set for noon on November 18. On November 17, the full recount operation was relocated to a privately-owned property. County workers were evicted from the premises late at night, suspending the recount until the next morning.

On November 18, County workers failed to meet the deadline, instead certifying the original November 10 tabulation, which officials claimed ???uncertainty??? over the accuracy of the results. True the Vote later demanded to review poll books, ???voter credit??? lists, felon files and others to perform a comprehensive audit of the CD-18 tabulations. Inspection rights were not granted and so this lawsuit was made necessary.

One reason the West-Murphy race seemed odd to outside observers was the rather high volume of ticket-splitting by Republicans in West’s district.  This led to some early accusations of ballot-box shenanigans by dejected West supporters, although it has nothing to do with the specific issues True the Vote wishes to investigate, or the legal case they have brought.  Bloomberg Businessweek took a look at the ticket-splitters shortly after the election, and concluded it might have been fallout from early unpleasantness between West and his Republican primary opponent, Sheriff Bob Crowder, as well as the shifting fortunes of the Tea Party movement that held West as one of its paladins:

Murphy won by 1,900 votes. In Martin County, the district???s Republican stronghold, West received 4,800 fewer votes than Mitt Romney, while Murphy outperformed Obama by 3,700 votes, a sign that a significant number of Republicans split their ticket. It didn???t help that in the final weeks of the race, Crowder, West???s spurned GOP rival, endorsed Murphy. West believes he lost because voters accustomed to pandering politicians couldn???t handle his directness. ???I just talked the truth. I think that a lot of people maybe are not comfortable hearing the truth.???

Another possibility is that his rapid rise and fall coincided with the public???s equally brief enthusiasm for the mad-as-hell ethos of the Tea Party. When West was elected two years ago, 40 percent of voters nationwide said they supported the movement, according to exit polls. This year, support was down to 21 percent. West was one of several members of the Tea Party caucus who lost reelection to the House. ???Anger only gets you halfway there,??? says Gene Ulm, West???s pollster. ???You have to have an agenda. And if the Tea Party is going to make the transition and be impactful, focusing that agenda is what needs to be done.???

West recently announced plans to host an Internet video program for PJ Media, called Next Generation Today.  Set to launch in February, it will focus on bringing the news to young Americans, for whom securing economic liberty and restoring fiscally sane, limited government is particularly important: