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A Hand of Poker May Decide Presidential Race

14 November 2000

SANTA FE, New Mexico —Nov. 14, 2000-- As reported by MSNBC: "The close presidential race in New Mexico, which has been seesawing back and forth since the election, tilted back to Democrat Al Gore by 375 votes Tuesday after an error of 500 votes was found. But state and party officials said the race was still not decided. And under a quirk of New Mexico law, the candidates may have to sit down to a hand of poker if their tight race for the state ends in a tie.

" Gore, hoping to win the state's five electoral votes, lost an early lead of more than 10,000 votes after a recount in one county last week put Republican George W. Bush ahead by four votes out of 600,000 cast statewide.

"But a flurry of unofficial numbers late Monday emerged from a recount of 250 votes in Bernalillo County and from still unfinished double-checking of early results in several other counties.

"Ongoing canvassing discovered an additional 500 votes for Gore in southern Dona Ana County and 126 extra votes for Bush in 10 others. Adding a net Bush gain of five from the Bernalillo count, the current numbers gave Gore a lead of 375 statewide.

"…But none of those numbers is final and a clear result will likely have to wait until all 33 counties finish canvassing and certifying their totals to the secretary of state's office by a deadline of Friday, party leaders said. The state will certify an official result on Nov. 28.

"…New Mexico's electoral votes are not enough to settle the presidential race, but could become vital if a recount in Florida spreads to other states.

"…In a strange twist, under New Mexico law, a tied result could force Bush and Gore to draw straws or play a hand of poker to settle the race.

"State law requires that a dead-even race, `the determination as to which of the candidates shall be declared to have been nominated or elected shall be decided by lot.'

"In practice, the usual method for this rare event has been to play one hand of five-card poker, but the parties can decide on another method.

"…The last time this happened was in December 1999, when Republican Jim Blanq and Democrat Lena Milligan tied at 798 votes each in a local race for magistrate judge. They played one hand of poker in a courthouse with dozens of people watching, and Blanq won…"

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