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Two lay claim to Alabama governor's mansion

About 3,000 votes separate candidates

Siegleman, left, and Riley have both claimed victory in Alabama's governor's race.
Siegleman, left, and Riley have both claimed victory in Alabama's governor's race.

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MONTGOMERY, Alabama (CNN) -- Both the Democratic and Republican candidates for governor of Alabama have declared victory -- and it may be weeks before residents of the state know who their next governor will be.

In a stalemate reminiscent of the 2000 presidential election, both Democratic incumbent Don Siegelman and Republican challenger Bob Riley insist they've won by a tiny margin. Siegelman is already discussing upcoming programs for the state; Riley has received a congratulatory phone call from President Bush.

The confusion stems from two sets of numbers reported by one heavily Republican district.

Figures originally reported by Baldwin County showed Siegelman got about 19,000 votes there, making him the state's winner by about two-tenths of 1 percent.

But hours after polls closed, Baldwin County officials said the first number was wrong, and Siegelman had received just less than 13,000. Those figures would make Riley the statewide winner by about 3,000 votes.

Chuck Grainger, general counsel for the Alabama Secretary of State, said the earlier figure was the result of a computer glitch. It was fixed, and the latter figure of 13,000 has been certified by Baldwin County.

But Siegelman tells a different story: "Sometime after midnight, after the poll watchers were sent home, a small group there decided to recount the votes a third time," Siegelman said at a news conference Wednesday. "No watchers legally entitled to be present were notified -- and then a different total was established."

Siegelman stopped short of accusing county officials of fraud, but said that tallying votes outside the presence of poll watchers defied Alabama law. Siegelman also said that while votes for him were altered in a late-night recount, no other candidates had their vote tallies changed.

Siegelman insisted a legal tallying of the votes will prove him the winner.

Any voter in Baldwin County who voted November 5 is allowed to call for a recount in the county within 48 hours of the county certifying its results.

Riley said no recount is necessary. In a news conference minutes after Siegelman's, Riley called Siegelman's claims "absolutely ridiculous. ... He knows it, people in Baldwin County know it, and I know it."

Riley said there was never an accounting error, only a reporting error. He said because of the technical problem, incorrect numbers were mistakenly passed to the media, but election officials later legally determined the accurate results.

"The president of the United States called in and he said 'Bob, with 3,000 votes that's a landslide compared to some races,'" Riley said.

Even after any possible recounts, there may be further delays in determining a winner. A voter can file a complaint, which would then be heard by the new state Legislature when it convenes in January.

Alabama Secretary of State elections supervisor, Ed Packard, said it's possible some voters disappointed in the outcome of the election will take their case to court.



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