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Changes found in recount on Alabama's segregation amendment


Associated Press   30 November 2004

MONTGOMERY, Ala. - The statewide recount on a measure to remove segregation-era language from Alabama's constitution is turning up variations from the official canvass, with changes exceeding 100 votes in at least three counties.

Whether it's enough to change the narrow defeat of Amendment Two may not be known until next week, when state officials expect to certify the recount, but initial recount numbers point to no change in the outcome.

Elbert Peters, former chairman of the Alabama Republican Party and a leading critic of Amendment Two, said Tuesday that he doesn't think the outcome will change because, with a few exceptions, most counties have had only small variations that affect both the "No" and "Yes" votes about the same.

Amendment Two was designed to erase provisions from Alabama's constitution that provide for segregated schools and poll taxes and that say there is no right to an education at public expense in Alabama. The official canvass from the Nov. 2 election showed the amendment failed 691,300 to 689,450. The difference of 1,850 votes was close enough to trigger an automatic recount - the first done statewide under a law enacted by the Legislature in 2003.

The recount started Monday and many counties have already completed their work. Secretary of State Nancy Worley expects to wrap up the operation and approve new statewide totals next week.

In Hale County in west Alabama, the recount turned up 2,392 votes in favor of the amendment and 2,860 votes against it. That's a decrease of 60 yes votes and 122 no votes from the official canvass.

Probate Judge Leland Avery said about 20 ballots cast in one box on Nov. 2 couldn't be located for the recount, but the rest of the variation couldn't be explained.

In Macon County in central Alabama, probate court officials said the new count was 4,512 yes and 1,927 no - a of 203 yes votes and 137 no votes.

In Madison County in north Alabama, preliminary numbers showed 58,199 yes votes and 42,508 no votes - a of 59 yes votes and 106 no votes.

"It wouldn't take many of those to make a difference," Peters said, but he said they were the exception rather than the rule.

On the opposite end of the spectrum was Lamar County in north Alabama, where Probate Judge Johnny Rogers said the new count was exactly like the original tally.

"I was proud of that. I didn't want any discrepancies," he said Tuesday.

Two Alabama counties - Mobile and Montgomery - use voting machines rather than the paper ballots and electronic scanners that are used in the other 65 counties. In Montgomery County, the recount was exactly like the original tally. In Mobile County, the yes votes went up by two and the no votes down by two - with election officials saying the changes occurred in the recount of absentee and provisional ballots.

Most counties contacted by The Associated Press experienced small variations when they fed paper ballots back through electronic scanners.

In Perry County in west Alabama, Probate Judge Donald Cook said the new count showed an increase of 11 yes votes and three no votes over the tally on Nov. 2. He said the change resulted from four provisional ballots being located at one polling place and from the recount of absentee ballots.

For a staff that is dealing with 11 regular and special elections in a 15-month period, Cook said he was pleased the numbers came out so close.

In Henry County in southeast Alabama, Probate Judge Lamar Turner said the new count showed an increase of three yes votes and six no votes.

Turner attributed the change to election officials counting ballots that were likely rejected on the first tally because voters used their own pens rather than those provided at the voting places to make the marks. The personal pens didn't make marks as dark as those provided by the polling places.

"You could tell some lines were barely drawn in," he said.

Crenshaw County Probate Judge Jim Perdue said his south Alabama county saw a of 18 votes on each side in the recount - a small change he found satisfying.

With most counties showing similar variations, Perdue said, "I don't expect it to change the outcome."

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