Recount doesn't significantly alter Atlanta mayoral race

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ATLANTA (AP) — The recount is over in the close Atlanta mayoral election runoff, and the result remains the same, with Keisha Lance Bottoms appearing to be headed for the mayor's office. Her opponent is still not conceding, however, saying Thursday that she is still concerned about potential irregularities in the voting.

Mary Norwood requested Thursday's recount after initial certified vote totals showed her losing the race to Bottoms by 832 votes, a margin of less than 1 percent.

The bitterly contested Dec. 5 runoff campaign between the two city council members was marked by political grudges and allegations of corruption, and less than 20 percent of the city's roughly 500,000 residents turned out to vote.

If Bottoms' lead holds through any further challenges by Norwood, she will be Atlanta's sixth consecutive black mayor since Maynard Jackson was elected in 1973. An upset by Norwood would give the city its first white mayor in more than 40 years and its first-ever white, female mayor.

The totals after the recount show Bottoms with 46,661 votes, or 50.44 percent, and Norwood with 45,840 votes, or 49.56 percent. The 821-vote margin that separates them is still less than 1 percent of the 92,501 total votes cast.

Norwood picked up five votes and Bottoms lost six in Fulton County. The discrepancies came in paper absentee ballots that were submitted by mail, and county elections director Richard Barron said it's not unusual to see slight changes in paper ballot totals when they're scanned again. Barron said election officials plan to certify the recount results Saturday. Results in DeKalb County remained the same and, therefore, do not need to be certified again.

Norwood complained that election officials in Fulton County did not re-count paper ballots by hand as she had requested. She said they instead simply re-counted electronically and rescanned paper absentee and provisional ballots.

"We conducted the recount as prescribed by law," Barron said. "That's what we're required to do and that's what we did."

Norwood and her attorney, Vincent Russo, also raised the possibility that hundreds of people in the Loch Lomond neighborhood in south Fulton County should not have voted in the mayoral contest because the neighborhood's annexation into the city of Atlanta was not valid.

On Dec. 5 — the day of the runoff election — the Georgia Supreme Court sent a challenge to the annexation to the lower Court of Appeals. In that order, however, the high court noted its previous ruling that the annexations of five other communities in unincorporated Fulton County were invalid. The case remains pending in the Court of Appeals.

Cheryl Ringer, a lawyer for Fulton County, did not immediately return a phone call Thursday seeking comment.

Asked if she was ready to bring a challenge in court, Norwood replied, "We will see what we do next."

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