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Recounts might spread to New Mexico, Oregon

(CNN) -- With four votes separating Texas Gov. George W. Bush and Vice President Al Gore in New Mexico, officials said Monday they discovered a mathematical mistake in the tallying of presidential election ballots in Dona Ana County that, when corrected, led to an increase of more than 500 votes for Gore.

Officials noted that the extra Gore votes were not yet certified.

Despite the added boost for Gore in the second-most populous county in southern New Mexico, officials said the winner of the state was still too close to call.

Earlier, election officials turned up two ballots in a warehouse where some precinct supply boxes were stored and brought 16 locked boxes back to be opened by a presiding judge.

Meanwhile, in Oregon, Republicans seemed to be laying the groundwork for a recount of the ballot there. A Monday letter from Bush campaign counsel Michael Toner to Oregon Secretary of State Bill Bradbury raised concern that some Oregonians might have voted in more than one county as Oregon conducted all voting by mail.

While the Bush and Gore campaigns traded barbs in courts and news conferences in Florida, Republicans kept a close eye on the results in New Mexico, Oregon, Iowa and Wisconsin, where they could seek recounts.

Either man needs 270 electoral votes to win the presidency. Florida, with 25 electoral votes, can throw the election either way.

With Florida, New Mexico and Oregon still considered too close to call, Bush, the Republican nominee, was projected a winner in 29 states with 246 electoral votes. Gore, the Democrat, counted 255 electoral votes from 18 states plus the District of Columbia.

The four states where the GOP is considering recounts have enough electoral votes for Bush to win the presidency if he loses Florida. In Wisconsin, Bush trailed Gore by about 6,000 votes statewide out of about 2.8 million.

In Iowa, where Gore led by about 5,000 votes out of 1.2 million cast, Cedar County officials announced Monday that a stack of 14 absentee ballots gave the vice president the margin of victory after declaring the county a tie.

Bush and Gore each had 4,025 votes at the end of last week, but Gore took eight of the 14 absentees to win the county 4,033-4,031, said Jon Bell, chairman of the Cedar County Board of Supervisors.

Official canvasses like Cedar County's will set in motion the process under which Bush could request a recount in Iowa. Under Iowa election law, Bush must send a written request for a recount to each county supervisor. Bell, a Republican, said he didn't expect any recount to change the outcome in Iowa.

"Anything is possible, but I think it's unlikely," he said.

A recount seemed likely in New Mexico, though its five electoral votes alone would not affect the outcome of the presidential race. With about 570,000 votes cast statewide, Bush led by a four-vote margin, according to Monday figures from Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron's office.

Gore once led in New Mexico by 7,000 votes, and was considered the winner on Election Night. But computer glitches, more than 250 missing ballots and complaints from several hundred residents who said they didn't receive absentee ballots resulted in the evaporation of Gore's lead.

Republican attorneys are requesting that state police impound early-voting and absentee ballots in case of a challenge or recount -- a move New Mexico Democrats denounced. State Democratic Chairwoman Diane Denish called the Republicans' request "hypocritical."

Police seized ballots in seven counties during the weekend under orders from two state judges. Under New Mexico law, either party may request impoundment. It is then up to a judge to decide whether to grant the request.

Now that Bush is leading, Denish said, Republicans "suddenly want the ballot count to end." She says when they were losing, "they did everything they could to get questionable ballots counted."

In Albuquerque, election official Robert Lucero said he had only eight hours of sleep between Tuesday and Saturday.

"We brought in a district judge. We brought in representatives from the Democratic party, the Republican party and the Green party, which has major party status in New Mexico. Those three individuals, attorneys, watched the process from start to finish, so they have been by our side day in and day out."

Republicans weighed a series of recounts as a counter to Democratic efforts to seek hand recounts in several Florida counties.

"All options are open, of course, but what will be good for the country is to have this election over with so that the new administration can do the people's business," Bush said Sunday.

Former Secretary of State Warren Christopher, who is monitoring the recount in Florida for the Gore campaign, said that should be no problem.

"I certainly don't have any reason to oppose his contesting wherever he thinks he has a legal right and an obligation to do so," Christopher said Sunday.


Monday, November 13, 2000



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