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          Front Page




Recount Backers File Suit; Group Wants Nov. Vote Records Saved

By Deborah Baker
The Associated Press
    SANTA FE— Advocates of a recount in the presidential race went to court Friday to try to block county clerks from erasing general election data from voting machines.
    The advocates also made a last-minute pitch to the state Canvassing Board at a Thursday meeting to settle the recount dispute but were rebuffed.
    "We're very disappointed, but we're going to continue to fight for the recount that our candidates are entitled to," said Lowell Finley, a lawyer for Green and Libertarian presidential candidates.
    He said a request for a temporary restraining order was filed Friday in state District Court in Bernalillo County.
    Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron has given the go-ahead to clerks to clear the machines so they can be reprogrammed for Feb. 1 school board elections.
    Finley contends that, under state law, the machines should remain locked during the advocates' court appeal of the canvassing board's requirement that they pay $1.4 million upfront for a recount.
    "We're now faced with multiple counties threatening to clear their machines over the course of the next four or five days, and that's what's necessitated our going to court," Finley said.
    He said they have asked clerks not to touch the machines while the appeal is pending in the state Court of Appeals.
    They suggest that paper ballots— which are already in use for early voting in the low-turnout school elections— could be used on Feb. 1.
    The Greens and Libertarians have proposed that they pay up front to recount 10 percent of the state's precincts and that they be able to closely examine the operation of voting machines and the handling of provisional ballots.
    The Canvassing Board never voted on that proposal. The chief counsel for board chairman Gov. Bill Richardson, Eugene Zamora, said the scope of the proposal went beyond what state law provides.
    David Garcia, another lawyer for the Greens and Libertarians, told the Canvassing Board there were irregularities— particularly with push-button voting machines— that warrant a recount. He urged the board to consider the 10 percent compromise.
    President Bush defeated Democrat John Kerry in New Mexico by nearly 6,000 votes.