The Government Accountability Office, responding to a request from Democratic lawmakers, will investigate the way votes were counted in the Nov. 2 election (search).

The investigation will study the accuracy of the count and the methods used to count the vote. Investigators will look at the way officials counted provisional ballots (search), provided to voters whose names did not appear on voting lists but who contended they are eligible to cast ballots.

Congress' investigative agency cautioned that it is not authorized to take action if irregularities are found.

"Under the nation's legal framework, elections are a matter largely reserved to, and regulated by, the states," a GAO statement said. "As a result, general questions concerning these issues, as well as specific allegations of voting irregularities, should be addressed to state and local officials, such as the secretary of state or the state attorney general."

The U.S. Justice Department has authority to enforce federal voting rights laws and election fraud, the statement added.

Questions have been raised about voting irregularities in many states, especially in Ohio and Florida — crucial states carried by President Bush.