One of the greatest results of election night for progressives was the apparent defeat of Congressman Alan West by Patrick Murphy. Since Election Day, West has been sulking about voting problems and irregularities. My initial opinion as a progressive and as someone who has seen this type of reaction before from a Republican (example, Congressman “B-1” Bob Dornan’s challenge to Loretta Sanchez’s election in 1996 that carried on until October 1997) was that West is simply a sore loser. However, upon examining the situation more closely and with a degree of objectivity, I believe West has a serious point about irregularities, sloppiness and downright incompetence in St Lucie County.
West is asking for a full recount, noting that he is only 249 votes away from one and with the obvious issues in St Lucie County, it is a fair request. As someone who witnessed a Presidential Election swing to George W. Bush based on stonewalling in a recount and legal maneuvers, it does no long-term good for Democrats to stonewall West’s request. We must be the party of empowering voters and counting every vote regardless of what the consequence may be.
Chances of West actually overtaking Murphy are very remote. It would serve democracy well as well as improve the credibility of future Democratic complaints about voting systems and irregularities if the party yielded on this one. The case will be in court later today, and a West victory would not be the worst thing.
Patrick Murphy will begin his Congressional career in January. It would be best if his tenure began without question marks as to how he was elected and if in fact he actually received more votes. Vern Buchanan has rightly been dogged for his entire career in Washington by the way he was first elected in 2006. In that case, the Republicans both in Sarasota County and nationally played obstructionist to Christine Jennings attempts to get to the bottom of the obvious irregularities in that race. Buchanan’s subsequent conduct has made him an even bigger lighting rod, but the bottom line is the way he first took his seat will never allow him to be as effective as he could be.
In this particular race, West’s allegations are less serious than those that Jennings made, but still worthy of a full review. It won’t hurt Murphy or his campaign to let West have his full recount.