Gore regains lead in New Mexico

By CHAKA FERGUSON

Associated Press

ALBUQUERQUE – Democrat Al Gore regained the lead in New Mexico after picking up 500 votes in Dona Ana County today, where officials had misread an absentee total.

Gore now leads Republican George W. Bush by 374 votes, though New Mexico’s five electoral votes are not enough to give either candidate the presidency.

Gore moved ahead after a seesaw week in which his Election Night lead of 6,000-plus votes dwindled in the following days, giving Bush a narrow advantage.

The latest change in Dona Ana County gave Gore 286,389 statewide to 286,015 for Republican George W. Bush.

Bush took the lead after the state’s most populous county, Bernalillo, worked out glitches in its election system that had kept thousands of votes from being counted.

But the oversight in Dona Ana County, where election workers misread a 620-vote absentee total for a precinct – mistaking the figure as 120 – put the state back in Gore’s favor.

“They wrote a six that looked like a one. That’s where the 500 for Gore comes from,” Dona Ana County Clerk Rita Torres said late Monday from Las Cruces.

Torres said the county canvassing board had not certified the new total for Gore. Election workers also had not updated totals for Bush.

“It’s a great development,” Diane Denish, chairwoman of the state Democratic Party, said before the results were confirmed. “I’m not ready to have a celebration unless those numbers are confirmed.”

The vote changes in other New Mexico counties were attributed to several factors.

Eddy County Clerk Jean Etcheverry said additional votes in her county cropped up because an election worker keyed in wrong numbers on Election Day when taking results by telephone from precincts.

In Cibola County, Deputy Clerk Lee Ann Cramer said precinct numbers changed because voting machines had failed to read some ballots, “and we had to hand-tally those.”

Meanwhile, state police planned to finish a court-ordered impoundment of ballots across the state today.

State GOP Chairman John Dendahl said he wanted impoundments to ensure ballots were protected in case of a recount or challenge.

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 This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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