I’m Quoted Today in the Canadian Press
Lawyers head for battleground states to monitor vote for Obama, McCain
Lee-Anne Goodman, THE CANADIAN PRESS
WASHINGTON – Hanging chads, court interventions and Jews who were stunned to learn they’d actually voted for Pat Buchanan instead of Al Gore.
The painful memories of the 2000 election, when George W. Bush’s disputed victory in Florida ended up winning him the White House after the Supreme Court intervened, are alive and well this U.S. election.
Teams of lawyers for both the Democrats and Republicans are heading to key battleground states to keep a close eye on the polls on election day.
The Democrats put out a call for volunteers earlier this year and tens of thousands of lawyers responded, eager to help ensure that Americans need not fear a fraudulent election result on Tuesday night. More than 5,000 of them are headed to Florida alone.
“I am sick and tired of all this incredible activity devoted to denying people the right to vote,” Mark Levine, a Yale law school graduate who hosts his own political radio show, “The Inside Scoop,” in Washington.
Levine will be in the newly pro-Democratic state of Virginia on election day, keeping an eye on a polling station, driving people to the correct station if they’ve come to the wrong place and rectifying any problems they might have encountered while trying to cast their ballots.
He’s been working at polling stations every election day since 1996, but says the 2000 contest truly angered him because of the many bogus attempts he says he saw by Republicans to prevent people from voting.
“They’re still determined to keep Americans from voting, and in particular minorities who they know are strong supporters of the Democratic party, and whatever their intent may be, it becomes racist when they go through lists and centre people out with ethnic names,” he said Thursday.
“The Republicans say we’re at war in Iraq to promote democracy and that this is something we should fight for, and I believe this is something we should be willing to fight for in America as well. So that’s why I do the work I do on election day.”
An undisclosed number of volunteer Republican lawyers – known as “Lawyers for McCain” – will also be on hand in various states this year after weeks of making complaints about voter fraud. The claims are seen by some as an effort to lay the groundwork for challenging the outcome on election day.
The Republican party’s lawyers are heading to closely contested states and polling stations as well, aiming to ensure its candidates are getting a fair shake in an election that most polls suggest Democrat Barack Obama is going to win.
Kim Fridkin, a political science professor at Arizona State University, says Republican concerns about election day are far different than those of the Democrats.
While some Democrat votes, essentially, weren’t counted or were spoiled in the 2000 election, Republicans seem poised to try to challenge the eligibility of voters who are showing up to cast their ballots.
“Their issues surround people being signed up to vote by organizations like ACORN with names like Mickey Mouse,” Fridkin says.
“But no one named Mickey Mouse is ever going to be allowed to vote, so they are really several steps removed from what the Democrats are concerned about, which is that the Republicans are going to try to stop legitimate voters from casting ballots.”
Both parties say they have no plans to try to stop anyone from voting on election day for any reason, including home address discrepancies or whether a voter has recently been forced out of his home by a foreclosure.
Republican officials say the party simply wants observers on hand to see if anything irregular occurs at polling stations.
Democrats are suspicious of the Republicans on that front.
Recently in Detroit, a court settlement was reached over allegations the Republican party was trying to purge voters who had recently lost their homes.
In Montana, Republicans tried to challenge the voter registrations of 6,000 people in the state’s Democratic strongholds, such as university towns like Missoula and rural counties with native American reservations. A federal judge upheld the Democratic challenge to the Republican attempt.
And this week, Bush asked Ohio’s attorney general to investigate the status of 200,000 new Ohio voters because of supposed “database discrepancies,” something Democrat lawyers are fiercely protesting.
All this legal activity on behalf of the Democrats is an almost direct result of the chaos of the 2000 election.
The Democratic National Committee set up a national lawyers council to examine ballot issues, established a voter protection hot line and routinely speaks to hundreds of state and local election officials in an attempt to flag potential election day problems in advance.
“The 2000 election was pretty traumatic for this country, and no one wants to see that happen again, especially the Democrats,” said Fridkin.
“In this election especially, if something were to happen that doesn’t seem quite right, it would be quite devastating for some people. There’s a lot of hope riding on Barack Obama.”