WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) - Election staff inexperience and inadequate procedures fueled vote-counting problems in one of the country's most-watched congressional races, a state report released Friday found.
St. Lucie County was the epicenter of issues in the hard-fought race between Allen West and Patrick Murphy. The razor-thin contest gave way to two weeks of recounts, court fights and allegations that the votes weren't properly counted.
The Department of State's review of electoral processes in St. Lucie County found at least four incidences in which voting machine memory cards failed, as well as numerous ballot-scanning errors and missing logs of ballots.
"Despite well-intentioned efforts, staff inexperience and inadequate procedures compounded issues," the report states, "resulting in additional technical and procedural errors."
Murphy ultimately was declared the winner in the race, unseating West, a first-term hero of the tea party movement. Among the recommendations made by the state to St. Lucie County was to coordinate with a large county to establish review procedures and methods for processing multi-card ballots.
St. Lucie agreed to recount some early ballots in the District 18 race after an outcry from West supporters who claimed malfeasance by election officials. The partial recount gave the Republican a slight bump, but not enough to win or to fall in the parameters of a full recount. Still, West's campaign fought for a fuller recount and received it.
That final tally ultimately improved Murphy's margin of victory, but in a final flash of problems, St. Lucie County failed to meet the state deadline for reporting the numbers.
Separately Friday, the state issued a report on electoral problems in Palm Beach County, where a portion of 36,485 absentee ballots were misprinted and later had to be duplicated to be counted. The DOE report echoed the county's assessment, placing the blame of the misprint on the vendor who printed the ballots.
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