- The Washington Times - Monday, October 25, 2004

Each party’s operatives are accusing the other’s of planning to steal the election, with Democrats accusing Republicans of disenfranchising voters through intimidation at polls, and the GOP accusing its opponents of manufacturing voters to vote early and often.

“We know what the Republicans are trying to do: They’re going to try and disenfranchise voters,” said Terry McAuliffe, chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

“We’re not going to tolerate it,” said Mr. McAuliffe, who will have 10,000 lawyers watching polls throughout the country.

Ed Gillespie, chairman of the Republican National Committee, appeared yesterday with Mr. McAuliffe on NBC’s “Meet the Press” and said every vote should count, but that only legal ones will under the Republicans’ watch.

“We don’t want to see anyone disenfranchised by their rightful vote being denied. But at the same time, we don’t want to have people disenfranchised by having their honest vote canceled out by a fraudulent vote,” Mr. Gillespie said.

The top Republican cited questionable reports from across the country as cause for concern that illegal votes will be cast.

In Ohio, a battleground state, the census reports a voting population of 815,000 in Franklin County, but 845,000 are registered to vote.

An Ohio man has been arrested and charged with falsifying more than 100 registration cards, with names such as Dick Tracy, Mary Poppins and Jeffrey Dahmer as Democrats. Also in Ohio, a terrorism suspect charged with plotting to blow up a Columbus mall is registered to vote.

“If somebody votes four times, my one vote is diminished and is canceled out by those three or four votes. We’ve got to make sure this is an honest election, and I’m concerned by the widespread fraud that’s going on in terms of registration around the country. If Dick Tracy and Mary Poppins vote, they’re voting for John Kerry,” Mr. Gillespie said.

Republicans say fraudulent registration will allow voters to cast numerous ballots. They have hired poll watchers to keep the election honest.

Democrats say poll watching amounts to voter intimidation, and hundreds of lawyers gathered Saturday in Chicago to discuss strategies they say will protect the voting rights of minorities.

Republicans have lined up 3,600 poll watchers in Ohio, and Democrats have 2,000, according to published reports. Voters can be challenged on age, citizenship and state residency, but Democrats say that amounts to intimidation.

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals twice this weekend rejected lower-court decisions to validate ballots cast outside the voter’s precinct.

On Saturday, a three-judge panel of the court said Ohio precinct workers cannot accept such ballots and should direct voters to the proper precinct. A similar decision by a federal judge in Michigan was put on hold by the same panel yesterday.

Provisional ballots — required in all states for the first time this year — are used when voters say they are properly registered but their names are not on the registration rolls. The ballots are counted later if election officials determine the voter is validly registered. Democrats and liberal groups want the votes counted even if they are not cast in the correct precinct.

“We have to be crystal clear there has been a pattern of disenfranchisement in this country,” Mr. McAuliffe said.

The party leader denied that Democrats are seeking an unfair election.

“Ed said something that is just absolutely outrageous. We want to make sure that only the people who are allowed to vote, legally have the right to vote, should be able to vote,” Mr. McAuliffe said.

In Colorado, one woman registered to vote 35 times, and Republicans and Democrats are receiving phone calls from people claiming to be election officials telling them to throw away absentee ballots.

C. Boyden Gray, who was White House counsel to President George Bush, said he fears there will be a repeat performance of the 2000 election, when the election was not decided until a Supreme Court verdict five weeks later.

“The temptation on behalf of both parties will be to go in and litigate. If this is the case, we may not know for weeks” who won, Mr. Gray said on CNN’s “Late Edition.”

“I think that would be a terrible outcome,” Mr. Gray said.

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