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Ala. Gov. Candidates Dispute Result

November 6, 2002

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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) _ Democratic Gov. Don Siegelman and his challenger, Republican Rep. Bob Riley, both claimed victory early Wednesday after a dispute arose over the correct vote totals in a county considered a GOP stronghold.

Election officials in Baldwin County originally showed Siegelman with 19,070 votes, but later reduced his tally to 12,736. The change could be enough to put Riley in the lead in the razor-thin race.

The dispute threw the tight race into turmoil. Siegelman declared victory at a party in Montgomery, telling supporters, ``How sweet it is.″ Meanwhile, Riley was also declaring himself the victor, telling supporters in Talladega: ``We win. Alabama’s got a new day coming.″

Baldwin County’s initial tally would put Siegelman on top by 3,582 votes. But the revised tally would put Riley in the lead by 2,752 votes.

The 19,070 vote total for Siegelman was given in a printout of Baldwin County votes that was provided to news organizations, including The Associated Press.

But Capt. Marvin Ussery of the Baldwin County Sheriff’s Department said Siegelman’s numbers were lowered after computer data packs from polling places were rerun because of a suspected error. Probate Judge James Reid said the lowered number would be certified as the official result later Wednesday.

Siegelman campaign spokesman Rip Andrews said the governor believes his original tally was correct in Baldwin County.

Alabama does not have a law providing for an automatic recount in tight races. Instead, a voter can seek a recount with each county canvassing board, but it requires putting up a security bond, said Chuck Grainger, attorney for the secretary of state’s office.

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