- The Washington Times - Monday, September 27, 2004

Republican officials say the significant number of lawyers the Democrats will dispatch to oversee balloting in the presidential election indicates that Democrats plan to demand recounts in an attempt to litigate the outcome of the contest.

“The Democrats have made the very large number of lawyers they’re using part of their political message. They are playing a very high-stakes legal game for a political outcome,” said Terry Holt, senior spokesman for the Republican National Committee.

“It’s almost as if they would rather have lawyers decide this election than the voters,” Mr. Holt said.

Kerry campaign counsel Marc Elias has described the Democrats’ election-law challenges and poll-watching initiatives as “aggressive and proactive” and says the campaign will be ready to send heavyweight legal teams to any state where the balloting is challenged and the outcome is uncertain.

“There are people who felt that the Democrats didn’t fight hard enough [in 2000]. That’s not going to happen [this time],” said Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe, referring to the Florida recount battle that resulted in George W. Bush’s election as president.

Republican National Committee officials won’t say how many lawyers they will deploy, but Democrats have been promoting the huge number of lawyers — as many as 25,000 by some accounts — who will be running a “voter protection program.”

An article in New Yorker last week said the Bush-Cheney team plans to have lawyers on call “for as many as 30,000 precincts.”

Last week, Kerry campaign manager Mary Beth Cahill sent out an urgent fund-raising appeal on the campaign’s Web site for what she said could be another protracted recount battle.

“Election Day is several weeks away, but our campaign is already considering our options should John Kerry or George Bush pursue a recount like the famous Florida ballot dispute in 2000,” she said in her letter.

“That year, the Bush campaign raised more than $14 million in the Florida crisis, compared to Al Gore’s campaign, which raised $3.2 million. We can never again be outspent 4-to-1 in such a critical situation.”

Republican officials say their volunteer poll watchers are being installed by the state and local party organizations.

Even so, Republicans will have large legal teams in battleground states. In Ohio, for example, Republicans will have two dozen lawyers in Columbus alone to challenge ballot abuses.

This summer, the Republican National Lawyers Association has been running a “Florida school” for hundreds of lawyers countrywide, and national party recruiters have been busy assessing legal teams put together by the state party organizations.

Although election-law specialists say they do not expect the kind of ballot-count dispute that left the outcome of the presidential election undecided for more than a month in 2000, complaints of ballot fraud, voting-machine problems and other irregularities have been reported in many states. This has served only to raise fears on both sides of widespread political skulduggery.

The Bush campaign and Republican officials say they have been monitoring such reports across the country and have put together a thick file that could form the basis of legal challenges in the weeks to come.

But some Republican attorneys predict that the Democrats’ platoons of lawyers won’t have much to do after the votes are counted.

“You are going to have a lot of people dressed up for a party and nowhere to go,” said Jan Baran, a Republican election-law lawyer. “The Florida situation historically occurs every 100 years because, generally, presidential elections are not close in the states, and if they are, usually the outcome won’t matter in the electoral vote count,” he added.

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