On Thursday, Florida Democrats filed a federal lawsuit in which they alleged that the Sunshine State's, county-by-county, subjective signature match procedures for rejecting vote-by-mail (VBM) and provisional ballots are arbitrary, lacking in standards, and, over several election cycles, inconsistently applied so as to have a disparate impact on minority and young voters. This, the complaint alleges, deprives those voters of Equal Protection under the law as mandated by the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
As explained by the Democrats' attorney Marc Elias to WLRN Miami:
These laws, when taken together, condition the right to vote of millions of Floridians who vote-by-mail, or wind up voting provisionally, on the untrained opinions of canvassing boards or elections officials as to whether or not signatures match. The problem is that voters in one county are subject to different standards for reviewing signatures than others and there is no uniform standard or even sufficient training for this, and it's highly error prone.
Studies have shown that laypersons conducting signature matching are more likely to reject legitimate signatures as inauthentic than the other way around. This serves as an outright disenfranchisement and burden on the right to vote.
Elias' assertions about the arbitrary and erroneous nature of signature mismatch rejections appeared to be partially born out via a Nov. 9 Tweet published by former Rep. Patrick Murphy, after he learned on Election Day --- too late to remedy the problem --- that even his "absentee ballot wasn't counted due to 'invalid signature' match"...
For two weeks since Election Day, we have been working to ensure every vote is counted accurately and fairly. We have made progress towards that goal, thanks to the dedication of our supporters and their unrelenting efforts to protect the integrity of the democratic process. While many questions remain unanswered, today I am announcing that I will take no further action to contest the outcome of this election.
While there are certainly still inaccuracies in the results, and the actions of the St. Lucie County and Palm Beach County Supervisors of Elections rightly raise questions in my mind and for many voters, after much analysis and this past weekend's recount in St. Lucie County, our legal team does not believe there are enough over-counted, undercounted or fraudulent votes to change the outcome of the election.
While a contest of the election results might have changed the vote totals, we do not have evidence that the outcome would change. Given the extremely high evidentiary hurdles involved in a successful challenge, I will not ask my generous supporters to help fund a drawn-out, expensive legal effort with little chance of success. Therefore, we will not contest the certification or challenge the seating of Congressman-elect Murphy.
Serving the people in the House of Representatives has been among the highest honors of my life, but this seat does not belong to me, or for that matter, to any individual. It belongs to the people.
I want to congratulate my opponent, Patrick Murphy, as the new Congressman from the 18th Congressional District. I pray he will serve his constituents with honor and integrity, and put the interests of our nation before his own.
With West's concession, however, there are still a few points to keep in mind moving forward...
We're back in this week --- today through Wednesday --- guest hosting the nationally-syndicated Mike Malloy Show.
Once again, we'll be BradCasting LIVE from 9pm-Mid ET (6p-9p PT), coast-to-coast and around the globe from L.A.'s KTLK am1150 in beautiful downtown Burbank. Join us by tuning in, chatting in, Tweeting in and calling in! Our LIVE chat room will be up and rolling right here at The BRAD BLOG, as usual, while we are on the air. Please stop by and join the fun while you're listening! (The Chat Room will open, at the bottom of this item, a few minutes before airtime, see down below, just above "Comments" section.)
The Mike Malloy Show is nationally syndicated on air affiliates across the country and on SiriusXM Ch. 127. You may also listen online to the free LIVE audio stream at our Sante Fe affiliate KTRC 1260, or our Minnesota affiliate KTNF 950 (tell them you're from "Minnesota" when asked). Also, you should be able to listen live at WhiteRose Society if the radio gods are with us.
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POST-SHOW UPDATE: Thanks to all for an awesome show tonight! Commercial-free audio (and chat room) archives are now posted below for your listening pleasure, and we'll be back tomorrow night for Round 2! Keep it lit until then!...
It was a crazy weekend --- and that may be an understatement --- in St. Lucie County, Florida, as the fight continued over the questionable, completely unverified-by-humans, and extremely close computer-reported election results between Rep. Allen West (R) and Patrick Murphy (D) in the U.S. House race for Florida's 18th Congressional District.
Two things, if nothing else however, have become clear. 1) The Florida Democrats supporting the unverified computer-tallied results, which reportedly offer a slim margin in Murphy's favor, have become virtually indistinguishable from the Republicans who supported George W. Bush over Al Gore in the state during the 2000 Presidential Election debacle, and for the same, unjustifiable and partisan reasons. 2) Allen West has terrible and incompetent election attorneys.
Here's a recap of all that has happened --- and there has been quite a bit --- over the weekend, since we last covered the race on Friday, just after a St. Lucie Circuit Court judge denied West's motion demanding a retabulation of all eight days of Early Voting ballots in the county and just before the county's Canvassing Board took up the same issue shortly thereafter in what became a seven hour meeting of the board to determine how to proceed.
(And all of that in the wake of a previous partial retally of three out of eight days worth of early votes had resulted in the unexplained disappearance of some 800 votes when the same paper ballots were run through the same machines a second time due to unexplained "issues" with the electronic tabulation systems the first time around. That initial re-tally had resulted in a net gain of some 500 votes by West.)
The insane weekend events included a two-day machine "retabulation" of all Early Voting ballots in St. Lucie (one of three counties, along with Martin and Palm Beach, that make up FL-18); the discovery of more than 300 previously-untallied early ballots in the same county; new computer-reported tallies resulting in pick-ups by both candidates, for an overall gain of nearly 300 votes by the current leader Murphy; and a County Supervisor of Elections who ended up spending the weekend in the hospital...
A Circuit Court Judge in St. Lucie County today denied Florida's Republican Rep. Allen West's motion to order a re-tally of all Early Voting ballots in the county, after a partial re-tally of Early Votes last Sunday resulted in the disappearance of some 800 votes in the FL-18 U.S. House race between West and Democratic challenger Patrick Murphy.
It the second denial for West, a "Tea Party" favorite, in a Florida court room, where he had previously filed a motion to impound paper ballots and voting systems before all ballots had even yet been run through them.
"In denying West's motion," the paper said, "Vaughn noted the [St. Lucie County] canvassing board is considering the issue at a meeting this afternoon. The judge also said that West has other legal remedies - specifically mentioning a statute that allows a candidate to contest an election within 10 days of the final certification of results. That certification is scheduled for Tuesday."
Murphy's attorney argued in response that there was "no basis for a full recount of early votes and if the canvassing board orders a full recount of them, the Murphy campaign will go to court to try to block it."
"If the canvassing board were to decide that they want to do that without any evidentiary basis to do so, we'll be back before your honor with a motion for injunctive relief against them doing it because under the law the statute that we cited for your honor they have absolutely no right to do it," the Post quotes Murphy attorney Gerald Richman as arguing in court today.
No "evidentiary basis"? Really? A partial selection of ballots --- just the last three days of eight days of Early Voting --- are re-tallied by the same machines that tallied them originally, but give a completely different result the second time they are tallied and that isn't "evidentiary basis" for re-tallying all of the votes? If that isn't a basis for a full public hand-count of all ballots, I'm not sure what is. Unfortunately, without a court order, thanks to the state's Republican legislature following the 2000 Presidential Election debacle in that state, it's illegal to hand-count paper ballots once they've been tallied by an electronic machine.
[Update: See bottom of story for update on what happened at the canvassing board on Friday, and much more!]
I was on Thom Hartmann's TV show, The Big Picture, last night to discuss the FL-18 U.S. House mess where West currently trails Murphy by a very slim margin, according to oft-failed, easily-manipulated, paper ballot optical-scan computers made by three different private companies in the three different counties that make up Florida's newly redistricted 18th Congressional District.
As we've covered in detail here at The BRAD BLOG, a margin of some 2,400 votes out of some 330,000 votes tallied as of last Friday was dwindled down to just under 2,000 votes as of last Sunday when St. Lucie County --- one of the three, along with Martin and Palm Beach Counties, that make up FL-18 --- carried out a partial re-tally of Early Voting ballots due, they say, to an unexplained "issue" on the Diebold optical-scan systems used to tally those ballots in the county.
Nonetheless, at this time, West is still some 250 votes shy of a mandated state "recount" which is triggered when the margin is .5% or less. Currently, the margin is just eight one-hundredths of a percentage point shy of that mark, at .58%, with West having filed his court for an expanded re-tally of all Early Voting ballots in St. Lucie earlier this week. While his court motion had called for a full re-tally of all Early Votes in St. Lucie, the motion failed to request a re-tally of either Election Day votes, absentee ballots or any of the ballots in FL-18's other two counties, for unexplained reasons (the West campaign has not replied to our queries on that) as we also discussed on Hartmann's show...
West did file an amended complaint this morning before the hearing, seeking a re-tally of absentee ballots in St. Lucie as well, after the campaign claimed they had found "significant problems" with the records for some of those votes, charging that the number of absentee ballots in some precincts exceeds the number of voters listed as casting absentee ballots there...
A court hearing has been set for Friday in St. Lucie County, Florida, to hear arguments by Republican Rep. Allen West, who is now seeking a recount of all Early Voting ballots cast in the county.
Over the weekend, some 800 votes simply appear to have vanished from the tally in Florida's 18th District razor-thin U.S. House race between West and his Democratic opponent Patrick Murphy (D), after an unexplained partial re-tally of ballots cast during the last three days of Florida's eight days of Early Voting in the county, one of three that make up the new FL-18.
With very good reason, West is demanding that all Early Voting ballots be re-tallied in St. Lucie, on the heels of the unexplained "issues" with memory cards in the Diebold electronic optical-scan tabulators that county officials cited vaguely as the reason for Sunday's partial re-tally.
Where the extreme and extremely controversial West and his supporters have claimed the election is being "stolen" on behalf of Murphy --- a claim for which we are aware of no actual evidence --- The BRAD BLOG has now twice reported in great detail (first here and then here) on the oft-failed, easily-manipulated electronic systems, made by three different companies, in each of the three different counties (St. Lucie, Martin, and Palm Beach) that now constitute FL-18.
Why West has failed to demand a full hand-count of all ballots, in all three counties, as opposed to just the Early Voting ballots in St. Lucie, is a question that West's campaign has yet to resolve for us. Our queries to the campaign, to date, have gone unanswered.
Whether a hand-count, versus another machine count by the same faulty machines, is even allowable in Florida, remains to be seen, since the state's Republican-majority legislature, following the 2000 Presidential Election debacle in the state, insanely mandated that paper ballots, once tallied by a computer, could not be examined by hand.
A mandatory "recount" (a re-tally by the same machines) is required in Florida when the margin between the two top candidates is 0.5% or less. The margin in FL-18 is now just 249 votes shy of that threshold.
Given that 800 votes seem to have simply disappeared without explanation --- Murphy lost 667 and West lost 132 votes during Sunday's partial re-tally, decreasing Murphy's lead over West by 535 votes in a race where just 1,907 votes (out of some 330,000 votes cast), or 0.58%, now separate the two --- and given that the different tally occurred while re-scanning the very same ballots on the very same machines, it's almost beyond comprehension that both parties, at this point, aren't calling for a full, public hand-count of all paper ballots in all three counties in hopes of determining who really won and who really lost the race.
At this point, who knows if the machines were right the first time they tallied the same ballots, or the second time they tallied the same ballots, or, for that matter, either of the times they tallied the same ballots? Anybody else without a partisan dog in this hunt, other than us, beginning to see the problem here?...
On Sunday, election officials in St. Lucie County, Florida re-tallied votes from the last three days of Early Voting, citing what county officials described cryptically as "an issue with the memory cards that record the ballots when they're fed through the machines originally."
Among the races which saw a partial re-tally of paper ballots, as they were sent through the same optical-scan systems which scanned them the first time, was the contentious and very close U.S. House race in Florida's new 18th Congressional district. As The BRAD BLOG reported in detail late last week, Democratic candidate Patrick Murphy was said to have been leading Republican Rep. Allen West in the race by a very slim margin --- just .78% at the time --- after initial Election Day tallies in all three counties which comprise the new district. The extreme and often extremely controversial, far Rightwing West currently represents Florida's 22nd District, but is now running in the new, redistricted 18th.
Following Sunday's re-tally, both candidates reportedly lost votes. West lost 132 votes while Murphy lost an extraordinary 667, for an overall pickup by West of some 535 votes.
On Friday, Murphy was said to have been leading West --- whose attorneys have already been in court, unsuccessfully demanding that voting systems and paper ballots be immediately impounded --- by just 2,456 votes out of approximately 318,000 tallied at the time.
After Sunday's partial re-tally, Murphy is still said to be leading West, according to the Florida Division of Elections website, but by just 1,907 votes. The current .58% margin of difference puts West just barely outside of the .5% margin that would trigger an automatic "recount" (albeit by the same faulty machines) in the state of Florida.
In our report on Friday, supporting West's demand for a hand-count of all paper ballots in the race, we detailed the three different electronic tabulation systems used in each of the counties --- St. Lucie, Martin and Palm Beach --- which now comprise FL-18, and how each of those systems have a long track record for failure during elections, mistallies and the ability to be easily manipulated by both hackers and election insiders alike.
Following the partial re-tally on Sunday, West's attorneys and supporters were predictably outraged and claiming, without presenting any actual evidence to support them, that "liberals" and/or St. Lucie's Supervisor of Elections Gertrude Walker, a Democrat, was attempting to "steal" the race...
On Election Night, Democrats and progressives celebrated the reported defeat of far Rightwing Tea Party-backed Rep. Allen West (R-FL22) by his Democratic challenger Patrick Murphy in Florida's newly redistricted 18th Congressional district in Eastern Florida.
With precinct votes unofficially tabulated in the three counties which comprise the new Democratic-leaning district --- Martin, St. Lucie and part of Palm Beach --- Murphy reportedly leads West by 2,456 votes out of 318,200 electronically tallied to date. That number does not include what West's campaign manager describes as "tens of thousands of absentee ballots to be counted in Palm Beach County and potential provisional ballots across the district."
Nonetheless, Murphy has declared victory, which carries no particular legal weight, while West has filed legal documents in St. Lucie and Palm Beach calling for the impounding of voting systems, paper ballots and a hand-count of those ballots.
West may be a far Right extremist. A fair amount of evidence even suggests that West may be certifiably insane. But, even far right, possibly insane candidates, and especially their supporters, deserve to have their votes counted in a way that they can know, for certain, that they either won or lost an election.
Given the oft-failed, easily-manipulated, unoverseeable electronic voting and tabulation systems --- each with a long and well-documented record of failure and miscounts --- used in the three counties that make up Florida's new 18th district (as well as the rest of the state of Florida, and the rest of the 50 states for that matter), West and his supporters have every reason to demand a public, 100% hand-count of paper ballots before conceding defeat. Particularly in an election with such a slim margin, as reported by the flawed electronic systems, said to stand between the two candidates...