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Close race triggers automatic recount in Florida

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ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- Recounts are fairly common in American politics, with losing candidates challenging the results of closely fought races.

It's far less common in presidential races. There were charges of vote fraud in the 1960 election in which John F. Kennedy defeated Vice President Richard Nixon by a small percentage of the vote, but Nixon chose not to challenge the results.

The recount that was ordered Wednesday in Florida's presidential race was not called for by Vice President Al Gore, who trails Texas Gov. George Bush in the state by about 1,700 votes as of Wednesday morning.

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Florida law requires a recount if a candidate is defeated by one-half of a percent or less of the votes cast for that office. Under the law, Gore could have waived his right to the recount, but he did not since Florida and its 25 electoral votes are now the key to the election.

State Attorney General Bob Butterworth, a Democrat who was also Gore's state campaign chairman, told CNN that election officials would have the results of that recount as soon as possible.

"We owe something to the state, to the country and really to the world -- to make sure that whatever that vote might be, it's the accurate vote, it's the honest vote," he said.

State election officials later said the recount must be completed Thursday.

Officials from both campaigns are expected to observe the recount along with representatives for Green Party candidate Ralph Nader and Reform Party candidate Patrick Buchanan.

The candidates may not know who will be the next president even after the ballots are recounted. State election officials said overseas absentee ballots that are received over the next 10 days will still be counted if they are postmarked by November 7.

Election officials said either the number of overseas absentee ballots or a change as a result of the recount could tip the election for Bush or for Gore.



RELATED SITES:
Florida Attorney General Web site
Florida law: Electors and elections
Florida law: Conducting elections and ascertaining the results


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