Campaigns Send Lawyers to Watch Polls

Daily News Article   —   Posted on November 4, 2008

(by Valerie Richardson and S.A. Miller, WashingtonTimes.com) DENVER – It’s not quite “one man, one vote, one lawyer” this election year, but it’s pretty close.

Platoons of legal experts have converged on the nation’s so-called
swing states, ready to litigate if and when voting irregularities
manifest themselves in Tuesday’s presidential balloting.

Their numbers are estimated at anywhere from 5,000 to 15,000,
although it may be impossible to pin down a figure. Most Election Day
lawyers are volunteers attaching themselves either to state parties or
the presidential campaigns, and wouldn’t be included as staff members.

At the same time, this year’s race will clearly undergo greater
legal scrutiny than past presidential elections, even the 2004 race,
when a few thousand lawyers were involved in the postelection
skirmishing.

Colorado Democratic Party spokesman Matt Farrauto said the party
would have lawyers at many of the state’s voting centers, along with
non-lawyer poll watchers, watching out for any Republican-sponsored
high jinks.

How many lawyers? He wouldn’t say, but the state has thousands of
polling centers, and more than a few in remote mountain and rural
locations.

“They need not be attorneys to help people vote,” Mr. Farrauto said.
“It’s another layer of our field campaign designed to ease the process
and help with any problems that voters may encounter.”

Colorado Republicans, meanwhile, plan to have their own lawyers
concentrated at an unnamed central location while their poll watchers
keep an eye on potential Democratic hanky-panky in the field.

“We’ll have election watchers, poll watchers at every precinct,”
said Colorado Republican Party Chairman Dick Wadhams. “We have a very
strong legal effort on the ground right now.”

At the federal level, the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division
announced it would send 800 monitors across 23 states and 59
jurisdictions to make sure states follow election laws.

“We want to watch things closely and be aware of what’s going on in
our area of expertise,” said commission spokeswoman Sarah Litton, who
noted that the agency has no legal authority over elections.

High voter turnout, along with a flood of provisional and
vote-by-mail ballots, is expected to complicate this year’s election
picture. In Colorado, for example, election organizers have said they
won’t have unofficial results any earlier than Wednesday, owing to the
large volume of paper ballots.

Both parties have their own legal axes to grind. Democrats are
expected to keep a sharp eye out for efforts to stymie voters from
casting ballots, while Republicans are determined to quash attempts to
pad turnout with ineligible voters.

Lawyers already are flexing their muscles in the pre-election
squabbling. Democrats won a legal victory last week when a federal
judge ordered Colorado Secretary of State Mike Coffman to stop purging
the state’s election rolls of ineligible voters.

In Virginia, Republicans scored when a federal judge refused to
order longer voting hours and the reallocation of voting machines to
black precincts in some localities.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People had
sought the changes on the eve of an Election Day expected to produce
unprecedented voter turnout in Virginia, now a battleground state in
the presidential race.

Meanwhile, a Virginia Republican leader alerted election officials
Monday to a list of nearly 300 college students who registered to vote
in Virginia and also received absentee ballots from their home states,
setting the stage for voter fraud.

The alarm was raised by Republican committeeman Michael Wade, who
said most of the students on the list were registered by groups
sympathetic to Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama.

Jessica Lane, spokeswoman for the Virginia State Board of Elections,
said election officials would examine the information provided by Mr.
Wade.

“We obviously take any allegation of voter fraud very seriously,” she said.

Mr. Obama is pushing hard to end the Republican’s 44-year winning
streak in presidential elections in Virginia, marshalling a surge in
voter registration and anticipated record turnout at the polls Tuesday
to flip the Old Dominion and several other states that backed President
Bush in 2004.

His lead in Virginia polls narrowed in recent days to between three and six points.

Copyright 2008 News World Communications, Inc.  Reprinted
with permission of the Washington Times.  This reprint does not
constitute or imply any endorsement or sponsorship of any product,
service, company or organization.  Visit the website at www.washingtontimes.com
.

Questions

1. Define the following words as used in the article:
swing state
litigate

2. a) How many lawyers will be monitoring the elections this year?
b) How is this year different from 2004?

3. Though the agency has no legal authority over elections, why is the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division sending monitors into 23 states?

4. How is the predicted high voter turnout and vote-by-mail ballots expected to complicate this year’s election?

5. What illegal activity is each party (Democratic and Republican) accusing the other of doing? (Use your own words.)

6. What complaint was made against 300 college students in Virginia?

 


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