Sunday, November 14, 2004

In New Mexico, Bush vs. Kerry Is Still an Issue as Votes Trickle In

The New York Times
November 14, 2004

In New Mexico, Bush vs. Kerry Is Still an Issue as Votes Trickle In

SANTA FE, N.M., Nov. 13 (Reuters) - Senator John Kerry has conceded, President Bush has laid out his plans for a second term and New Mexicans still do not know who won the election in their state.

New Mexico is the only state that does not have a clear-cut winner in the presidential vote, and state officials have been red-faced over the slow count. The state pledged to speed up counting ballots after it took about a month to tally the vote in the 2000 presidential race, where Al Gore beat Mr. Bush by 366 votes.

With most of the ballots counted, Mr. Bush has about 373,000 votes to 365,000 for Mr. Kerry, and several news outlets have projected Mr. Bush as the winner of New Mexico's five electoral votes.

On Friday, all of New Mexico's counties were required to have completed a count in their regions, but one rural county still had problems and did not meet the deadline. The secretary of state's office said Mr. Bush's lead over Mr. Kerry had narrowed to about 6,800 votes, according to initial tallies of the provisional ballots submitted to the office on Friday.

The main problems this time are the narrow margin between Mr. Bush and Mr. Kerry, troubles sorting through provisional ballots and not learning from the 2000 count, critics said.

It is expected to take more than a week to reach a definitive answer.

"I will not be declaring a winner until Nov. 23," said the secretary of state, Rebecca Vigil-Giron.

About 750,000 people voted in New Mexico, and Republicans said money that should have gone toward counting votes was spent on a marketing campaign intended to increase turnout.

"The counties were unprepared for the volume of voters because the money wasn't there," said Greg Graves, the executive director of the state's Republican Party.