- The Washington Times - Monday, November 1, 2004

Squads of mostly Democratic lawyers will join the cadre of international observers, voting machine foes, partisan representatives and election officials at polling places in Maryland and Virginia today.

Virginia Democrats will station 700 volunteer lawyers at polling places, and Maryland Democrats will have 200 lawyers in “roving teams” to watch for Republicans trying to intimidate or suppress minority and low-income voters.

“If a voter comes out of a poll and they don’t have an ‘I Voted’ sticker and they look upset, then [the lawyers] are going to try to help them,” said Michael Signer, the Virginia Democratic Party’s voter-protection coordinator.

Republicans have no plans to station lawyers at polling places. They will have small teams of lawyers working phone banks across the region, ready to be dispatched to problem spots, several officials said. If large problems emerge, they will have statewide networks of lawyers on call.

In Fairfax County, the Republican Party’s general counsel, Chris Craig, will meet at 6 a.m. today with several lawyers who will monitor phone banks and travel to polling places where problems are reported.

Mr. Craig said he is hoping for a slow and uneventful day.

“We’ve all heard of Republicans’ plans to have poll watchers challenge every voter. I don’t know what they have planned in Virginia,” said Laura Bland, spokeswoman for the Virginia Democratic Party.

“This is all part of the Republican plan to sow fear and doubt into people’s minds and to convince people that there’s going to be chaos at the polls … to keep people away.”

But Republican officials said such Democratic charges are unfounded and dishonest, adding that they will take a wait-and-see approach to disputes over voter registration and voter fraud.

“The Republican Party has no interest in challenging registrations. We want all properly registered voters to have a chance in the process,” said Eric Lundberg, chairman of the Fairfax County Republican Committee.

“Anything of that sort would be completely unaffiliated with the Republican Party and would be something we would be discouraging and not encouraging.”

Across the country, Democrats have accused Republicans of targeting minority and low-income voters when Republicans have challenged the validity of registrations in states such as Ohio, where a judge rejected a Republican effort to contest tens of thousands of registrations.

Maryland Democratic spokesman Josh White said voter intimidation is a serious concern, but that “unlike Ohio and Florida, we don’t have a lawyer in every location. We just don’t have those kinds of resources.”

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