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N.H. plans hand recount of primary ballots

Move follows complaints from underdog Democrat Dennis Kucinich and little-known Republican Albert Howard about "irregularities" in hand- versus electronically counted ballots.

New Hampshire officials on Friday said they'll conduct a statewide hand recount of the results of Tuesday's primary in response to complaints from two underdog candidates. The last time New Hampshire conducted a statewide recount in a presidential primary was in 1980.

Dennis Kucinich, the Ohio Democratic congressman, and a Republican contender named Albert Howard, whose Web site proclaims "The Angel of the Lord told me in January of 1992 that Hillary Rodham Clinton and I would meet and be running against each other and that she would lose," will be expected to bear the costs of the recount, which is scheduled to begin Wednesday.

The exact price tag was still being determined, New Hampshire Secretary of State William Gardner said in a statement (PDF).

According to published reports, Kucinich requested the recount because of possible vote count "irregularities"--specifically, differences in results for Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama between ballots that were hand-counted--typically in smaller precincts--and ballots that were counted using a machine. Most New Hampshire voters use Diebold optical-scan machines, in which voters pencil in their choices on a piece of paper that's fed through a machine, SAT-style.

Some activists have suggested that because the numbers show that Clinton fared better in machine-counted areas, the machines were somehow hacked in her favor. The blogosphere has helped to fuel the controversy, with one Ron Paul supporter posting a painstaking breakdown of numbers from hand-counted versus machine-counted locales. (He says he's not out to push any agenda--except "that the voters on both sides be accurately represented.")

At least one computer scientist who has weighed in frequently on e-voting security issues, Princeton University Professor Ed Felten, has said the more likely explanation is demographics, not digital mischief.

According to unofficial results recorded by the Secretary of State's office, Howard received 44 votes, and Kucinich received 3,901, which represented about 1.4 percent of the total. Hillary Clinton and John McCain respectively racked up 39 and 37 percent of the Democratic and Republican vote.

"This recount isn't about who won 39 percent or 36 percent or even 1 percent," the Ohio congressman said in a recent statement. "It's about establishing whether 100 percent of the voters had 100 percent of their votes counted exactly the way they cast them."