MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Democratic Gov. Don Siegelman lined up supporters to file for recounts in every Alabama county Friday, which could keep the outcome of the governor's race in dispute for at least a week.
Siegelman's request is opposed by Republican Bob Riley, who leads Siegelman by 3,195 votes out of more than 1.3 million cast.
"Let's recount all the votes and discover once and for all who is the legitimate winner of this election,'' Siegelman said Thursday at a news conference in the governor's office.
In Baldwin County, a GOP stronghold where a revised vote shifted the statewide outcome from Siegelman to Riley, the governor said he wanted a "recount by hand.''
The race is the nation's last undecided governor's campaign.
Alabama does not have a law providing for an automatic recount in tight races. However, state election rules allow a voter in each county to petition for a recount if they put up a bond to pay for it.
But Matt Lembke, an attorney for the Riley campaign, said such a recount is illegal because state law prohibits the ballots from being unsealed except in "very limited'' circumstances. He did not elaborate what circumstances would allow a recount.
"The fact that you're 3,000 votes behind and don't like the results of the election doesn't give you the right to a recount,'' Lembke said Thursday night.
"Just as Al Gore did in Florida two years ago, Gov. Siegelman now wants to change the rules and to make them up as he goes.''
Joe Espy, chief of Siegelman's legal team of more than 20 attorneys, said the campaign lined up supporters to file in every county Friday, the same day county canvassing boards are supposed to certify election results. The Siegelman campaign or the Democratic Party will pay the necessary bonds, which haven't been determined.
Espy said the recount should be completed next week, although there is no deadline in Alabama law.
Siegelman said the tally is so close that a shift of 1,500 votes — less than one per voting precinct — could be the difference. He said it is vital residents know their vote has been "fairly counted.''
Siegelman, 56, is trying to win a second term and post a rare Democratic victory in the South after the GOP won governor's races in Georgia, South Carolina and Arkansas on Tuesday.
Riley, 58, a three-term congressman, has criticized Siegelman as the overseer of "the most corrupt administration in my adult lifetime.'' He has been going about the duties of a governor-elect, including appointing a chairman of his transition team and visiting with trustees at the University of Alabama on Thursday.
Besides a county-by-county recount, Siegelman's options included challenging the election in court or contesting it before the Alabama Legislature. Espy said there has been no discussion of a legislative challenge, and Siegelman won't go to court.
Siegelman did not answer questions Thursday, but he indicated the recount will be his only pursuit.
"I will live by the results and I would hope Bob Riley would do the same,'' he said.
Absentee ballots are an issue. Mobile County found uncounted absentee ballots in a courthouse file drawer Thursday. After officials determined they were legal, they added 99 votes for Riley and 76 for Siegelman.
Siegelman's attorney said there are probably a few uncounted absentee ballots in other counties.
Baldwin County took center stage when election officials released results Tuesday night showing Siegelman with 19,070 votes — enough for a narrow victory statewide. Later, they recounted and reduced Siegelman's tally to 12,736 votes — enough to give Riley the victory statewide.
Probate Judge Adrian Johns, a member of the county canvassing board, blamed the initial, higher number on "a programming glitch in the software'' that tallies the votes. The governor cried foul, claiming the results were changed after poll watchers had left.
Attorney General Bill Pryor, a Republican, said a recount in Baldwin County would not help the governor. He said the first numbers — the ones that gave Siegelman the victory — add up to more than the actual number of voters.
Also, an Associated Press analysis of disputed election returns show if Siegelman received 19,070 votes in Baldwin County, the county's vote totals would be far out of line with voting patterns in Alabama's other 66 counties. The AP analysis was based on a comparison of vote totals for governor and for senator in each county.