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On the scene with Greg LaMotte in New Mexico

CNN Correspondent Greg LaMotte is covering the vote counting process under way in New Mexico, where the balloting tide has changed direction at least twice.

lamotte
Greg LaMotte  

Q: Have you heard anything that really surprised you?

LaMotte: One of more interesting aspects of the election process in New Mexico is that it has made me wonder about election processes in states across the country.

For example, a national GOP committeeman in New Mexico told me that in 1978, there were some vote totals that seemed out of whack in the governor's race. One investigation led to another, and ultimately the FBI was called in.

According to this GOP official, the FBI determined there was voter machine rigging going on. He said investigators found several machines around the state were rigged not to accept votes for GOP candidates for governor.

As a reporter, that piqued my interest. As a citizen, if the story is true, it certainly is dismaying.

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This committeeman also said that in his view, in every election, dead people are casting votes.

Q: Is there a lot of concern about the tallying errors?

LaMotte: Some of the local TV stations are taking to task the state's second-most populous county because just last night it was learned an adding error deprived Democrat Al Gore of 500 votes. Given the fact the race in New Mexico has been razor thin since voting stopped, a 500-vote mistake could cost Gore the state's five Electoral College votes.

At this late stage of the process, both Democratic and Republican leaders acknowledge Gore may have an insurmountable lead.

So one wonders, if mistakes like this happen in a county in New Mexico, why couldn't it happen in a county in Florida?

Q: Have the seesaw results diminished respect for voting in New Mexico?

LaMotte: It seems from many of the people we have spoken to that New Mexicans are willing to wait to get the final results -- just so long as they feel the final count will be fair and accurate.

We have not seen any public outcry for vote totals to be announced immediately. Nor have we seen any outcry for a winner to be announced immediately.

Keep in mind that final vote tallies won't be known until the state certifies all votes on November 28.

Q: Is there concern that vote counters have their own agenda?

LaMotte: The head of the GOP in New Mexico was asked, if the final vote count here is close, would he favor a recount. He said absolutely.

When he was then asked, is there a problem with Democrats conducting a recount in Florida, he said, "Keep in mind, I want New Mexico to go for George W. Bush because I'm the head of the GOP in this state. So I can understand what my Democratic counterparts are up to in Florida."

The national GOP committeeman said he believes thousands of absentee ballots weren't sent out in time for people to vote. He also said that, in his view, that is tantamount to changing the outcome of an election.

State election officials vehemently deny that allegation and say absentee ballots were sent out in a timely matter.

Q: Is chad, the bits of paper punched out of ballots, playing as big a part in the ballot recount in New Mexico as it has in Florida?

LaMotte: No, most of the voting in New Mexico is by machine. Most of the paper being handled is the 'in lieu-of-ballots.' Those are given to people who go to polling places saying they didn't receive an absentee ballot. After they sign an affidavit, they are given an in-lieu-of-ballot. Then it's up to the state to verify that those people did not vote twice.


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Tuesday, November 14, 2000


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