- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 3, 2004

Accusations of voter intimidation and fraud surfaced nationwide yesterday as Americans streamed to the polls in a divisive presidential election with the possibility of a flood of legal challenges by an army of lawyers — particularly targeting several swing states.

Several civil rights organizations, including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, added fuel to the potential legal firestorm, charging that dirty tricks, unprecedented voter eligibility challenges, and bureaucratic bungling at election offices nationwide threatened turnout in minority neighborhoods.

Julian Bond, NAACP chairman, said voter intimidation and accusations of fraud by Republicans were indications of the “racist impulses of people who are so desperate to prevail that they will break the law again and again and again.”

The Republican National Committee rebutted the accusations, saying the Democrats’ strategy was to charge voter intimidation whether it existed or not.

Meanwhile, in Florida, Rep. Kendrick B. Meek, a Democrat, sought to douse a disinformation campaign in hotly contested Miami-Dade County, saying black voters should not go to the polls because of long lines and that voting had been extended through today.

A lawyer on President Bush’s legal team, Hayden Dempsey, also was preparing to challenge in court what he described as efforts by Democrats in Florida to “make sure that felons are able to vote for their candidate.”

The Republican legal team on Monday filed a lawsuit accusing Broward County Elections Supervisor Brenda Snipes of failing to update a list of voters who had cast ballots. The lawsuit later was rejected by Circuit Judge David Krathen, who said no court could “micromanage an election, and I have no intention of doing so.”

Elsewhere, a bogus flier with the McCandless Township, Pa., seal said because of long lines, Republicans should vote Nov. 2 and Democrats should vote on Nov. 3; a faked NAACP letter in Columbia, S.C., said voters with outstanding parking tickets or unpaid child support would be arrested if they voted; and in Miami, Haitian Americans said they were threatened with deportation by several “thugs” who walked along lines at a polling site and demanded to see identification.

Also, fliers in Missouri and Wisconsin were sent to black voters showing a photo of a firefighter hosing a black man in what appeared to be a civil rights confrontation from the 1960s, blaming Republicans for past and present voter discrimination; a faked letter purportedly from the Republican National Committee went to Wisconsin voters saying the party’s chairman had endorsed Sen. John Kerry; and telephone callers told senior citizens in Pennsylvania that Mr. Bush was going to take away Social Security benefits.

Kay J. Maxwell, president of the League of Women Voters, said long lines at polling precincts were testing the capacity of the election system, but voters “are showing real dedication by voting early, standing in long lines and making sure their voices are heard.”

“While we know there have been problems at the polls today, it remains to be seen how serious or widespread they will turn out to be. We will need to move quickly to fix what is wrong in voter registration systems, counting of ballots, voting systems or polling place operations,” she said.

The Justice Department sent 840 federal observers and 250 Civil Rights Division personnel to 86 jurisdictions in 25 states to monitor the general election, seeking to protect the rights of Americans to participate in the electoral process without discrimination.

Several partisan organizations, such as Citizens United, which supports Mr. Bush, and America Coming Together, which has backed Mr. Kerry, sent thousands of volunteers throughout the battleground states to monitor polling precincts and challenge questionable election results.

“You name the battleground state, we’ve had an extensive presence there,” said David N. Bossie, president of Citizens United. “I’m going to personally be in Florida for most of the day, and then I might head up to Ohio later in the day.”

America Coming Together spokeswoman Sarah Leonard said the organization targeted what she called pro-Bush voter suppression, saying, “We intend to help voters get information on their rights to vote.”

In Ohio, Republican poll watchers were dispatched to precincts in the state’s 88 counties after a federal appeals court panel, in a pre-dawn decision, overturned rulings in two lower courts barring the challengers from the polls. The U.S. Supreme Court later declined a request by Democrats to intervene.

In a 2-1 decision, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel said the presence of Election Day challengers was allowed under state law, giving both Republicans and Democrats the right to each place one challenger per precinct.

Republicans had sought to assign poll watchers at the precincts to watch for voter fraud. Democrats had accused the Republican Party of seeking to deny voters their rightful access to the poll precincts, mainly blacks and Hispanics who would be expected to favor Mr. Kerry.

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