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Bush decides against recount in New Mexico

SANTA FE, New Mexico (Reuters) -- Republican George W. Bush, locked in an election court contest in Florida that will decide who enters the White House, will not seek to overturn Democrat Al Gore's narrow New Mexico victory, state Republicans said Friday.

Just minutes before the Friday deadline for a recount request expired, New Mexico Republican Party Chairman John Dendahl said the Bush campaign had decided against a challenge to Gore's 366-vote lead out of about 615,000 ballots cast statewide.

New Mexico's five electoral votes will not decide the national race for the White House, which hinges on Florida's contested 25 electoral votes.

But Republican Party officials earlier this week laid the groundwork for a potential challenge by reviewing results in 20 of the state's 33 counties for signs of ballot counting errors. The statewide result was certified on November 30.

"The Bush-Cheney Campaign 2000 respects the certified results in New Mexico and will not exercise its option to request a recount," Dendahl said, reading from a Bush campaign statement to reporters outside the secretary of state's office.

Dendahl also said Bush would not contest the results in court, which candidates can do until a deadline of December 30.

Winning a court contest presents stiffer legal hurdles than launching a recount, requiring proof of "large-scale fraud or corruption," state elections bureau director Denise Lamb said.

No one has ever contested a certified presidential election result in New Mexico, Lamb said.

Dendahl said the Republican review of results in some counties showed "there was evidence of significant mechanical error in the ballot counting process."

A recount won by Republicans in one small county last week turned up a computer error in tabulating straight-party ballots, netting 115 votes for Bush.

But Dendahl said the Republicans' analysis of apparent errors in other counties led them to predict a net gain of 250 votes for Bush in those areas, making it questionable whether a statewide recount would overturn Gore's lead.

In addition, Dendahl said Bush believed "a recount in New Mexico would be divisive and time-consuming, delaying the conclusion of the election even more."

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 This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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Saturday, December 9, 2000


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