( dpa )- A hand recount of up to 270,000 ballots cast in last week's New Hampshire presidential primary began Wednesday at the demand of an also-ran Democratic candidate who cited "unexplained disparities" in the results.
Former first lady Hillary Clinton won the Democratic primary, defying pre-vote polls that predicted a victory for Barack Obama , her chief rival for the party's nomination to run for president in November.
Dennis Kucinich, a Democratic congressman who won less than 2 per cent of the vote in New Hampshire's January 8 vote, alluded to Clinton's dramatic comeback in asking for the recount.
In a letter last week to New Hampshire's top election official, he cited "stunning disparities" between the opinion polls and the results on election night. The broader credibility of US election results also is at stake, he said.
Meanwhile, rumours and theories have surfaced on US political blogs and websites that portrayed Clinton's alleged wide lead in precincts with machine-counted ballots as suspicious.
Kucinich paid the state 27,000 dollars to start the recount, media reported Wednesday.
Shortly before 8 am, the ballots were taken from a safe in Manchester, New Hampshire, and loaded onto hand trucks to be taken to the state capital Concord for the recount, WMUR television reported.
"The big thing, I think, is to determine if the paper ballot count, the hand count, matches the machine totals," Emmanuel Krasner , an observer for the Kucinich campaign, told WMUR.
Kucinich's letter said his challenge was prompted by "serious and credible reports, allegations, and rumours " about the New Hampshire results. He emphasized that he does not expect major changes in his own vote total.
The recount raises echoes of a bitterly contested state recount in Florida after the 2000 presidential election, which was key to George W Bush's victory.
"Ever since the 2000 election - and even before - the American people have been losing faith in the belief that their votes were actually counted," Kucinich said.
Kucinich, an outspoken member of the Democratic Party's left wing, finished fifth in New Hampshire behind Clinton, Obama , former US senator John Edwards and former UN ambassador Bill Richardson.