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An accompanying memo by Appellate Section lawyer Marie K. McElderry said the charges not only included bringing the weapon to the polling place, but creating an intimidating atmosphere by the uniforms, the military-type stance and the threatening language used. She said the complaint appeared to be “sufficient to support” the injunctions sought by the career lawyers.

“The government’s predominant interest … is preventing intimidation, threats and coercion against voters or persons urging or aiding persons to vote or attempt to vote,” she said.

The front-line lawyers, however, lost the argument and were ordered to drop the case.

Bartle Bull, a civil rights activist who also was a poll watcher in Philadelphia, said after the complaint was dropped, he called Mr. Adams to find out why. He said he was told the decision “came as a surprise to all of us” and that the career lawyers working on the case feared that the failure to enforce the Voting Rights Act “would embolden other abuses in the future.”