Gore leads in Oregon, New Mexico

By BRAD CAIN

Associated Press

PORTLAND, Ore. – Even as all eyes remained on Florida, ballot counters in Oregon and New Mexico were also working to establish which presidential candidate won in their states.

Vice President Al Gore held a slender lead over Texas Gov. George W. Bush in both states with counting unfinished, but victories for either candidate would be largely symbolic because the states together have only a dozen electoral votes.

Bush needs 24 electoral votes to reach the required 270, and Gore needs 15, so neither Oregon, with 7 votes, nor New Mexico, with 5, would decide the outcome. Whoever wins Florida’s 25 votes will move into the White House next January.

Because of a last-minute rush of ballots, final unofficial results in Oregon’s nationally unique all-mail vote won’t be available until late today, at the earliest. In New Mexico, the problem was technical glitches.

With 96 percent of the vote counted in Oregon, Gore had 662,155 votes, or 47 percent, to Bush’s 658,123 votes, also 47 percent. Green Party contender Ralph Nader, viewed as a spoiler to Gore’s chances of winning Oregon, drew 63,284 votes, or 5 percent.

Bush could take the lead in Oregon today as more votes were reported from the conservative, southwestern counties of Jackson and Josephine.

Under Oregon law, a recount would be automatic if the margin between Bush and Gore were less than one-fifth of 1 percent, or about 2,500 votes.

New Mexico was waiting for a recount of 67,000 absentee and early-voting ballots from the state’s most populous county before it could declare a winner. Officials in Bernalillo County, which includes Albuquerque, began that recount this morning.

With 99 percent of the precincts reporting before the recount began, Gore had 255,597 votes, or 49 percent, and Bush had 245,526, or 47 percent. Nader won 19,215 votes, or 4 percent.

The recount was caused by a software glitch and by ballots that would not go through the counting machines, officials said. The machines could not read ballots in which voters marked that they were voting a straight party ticket, but then chose at least one candidate from another party, election officials said.

The county clerk, a judge, attorneys from the Republican, Democratic and Green parties and officials of the company that manufactured the county’s ballot machines agreed to the recount Wednesday afternoon, avoiding any immediate legal action.

Copyright ©2000 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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