- The Washington Times - Friday, November 8, 2002

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) Democratic Gov. Donald Siegelman yesterday talked with aides about challenging the vote count in Baldwin County, which gave Republican Bob Riley a narrow victory in Tuesday's election.

Baldwin County officials had initially reported 19,070 votes for Mr. Siegelman, but the final certified numbers Wednesday showed just 12,736 for the Democrat a number that makes more statistical sense, according to an Associated Press analysis.

Bill Pryor, the state attorney general, also said the initial erroneous figure would have made the votes in the governor's race greater than the total number of votes cast in Baldwin County.

Mr. Siegelman said no decision had been made, but his legal team will have to act by this morning if they want to challenge the revised and certified results from Baldwin County, which helped gave Mr. Riley a 3,195-vote lead out of 1.3 million votes cast.

Baldwin County took center stage in the gubernatorial fight when election officials released results Tuesday night showing Mr. Siegelman with 19,070 votes enough for a narrow victory statewide. Later, they found an error and recounted the vote, reducing Mr. Siegelman's number to 12,736 enough to give Mr. Riley the victory. Mr. Riley's vote total in the county 31,052 is not in dispute.

Probate Judge Adrian Johns, a member of the Baldwin County canvassing board, blamed the initial, higher number on "a programming glitch in the software" that tallies the votes.

Judge Johns is a Republican, like most voters in Baldwin County. Mr. Siegelman said Baldwin County's board acted too swiftly in changing its count. He said state law sets certification at noon Friday, not Wednesday.

Along with seeking a recount, Mr. Siegelman's options include challenging the election in court or contesting it before the Alabama Legislature. No candidate for governor has pursued the legislative route in modern times, but if Mr. Siegelman did, the entire Legislature 89 Democrats and 51 Republicans would decide which candidate won.

Any effort to move the issue before the Legislature would almost certainly be challenged in court.

Mr. Pryor said a recount in Baldwin County would not reverse the election because the first numbers released by county officials were wrong.

Also, an Associated Press analysis of the election returns showed that the initial returns were far out of line with vote-total patterns in Alabama's other 66 counties.

For example, if the initial reports that Mr. Siegelman received 19,070 votes in Baldwin County were accurate, that would have meant that 6,359 more persons voted for a gubernatorial candidate than for a U.S. Senate candidate.

In comparison, Mobile, Alabama's second-largest county, had the highest certified number of persons who voted for governor but not senator 2,971, fewer than half the amount in the unofficial Baldwin County numbers. Mobile County also has close to three times the population of Baldwin County.

But if Mr. Siegelman received the lower, certified figure of 12,736 votes, only 25 more persons voted for governor than senator a total in keeping with other counties.

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