- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 4, 2008

DENVER | It’s not quite “one man, one vote, one lawyer” this election year, but it’s pretty close.

Platoons of legal experts have converged on the nation’s so-called swing states, ready to litigate if and when voting irregularities manifest themselves in Tuesday’s presidential balloting.

Their numbers are estimated at anywhere from 5,000 to 15,000, although it may be impossible to pin down a figure. Most Election Day lawyers are volunteers attaching themselves either to state parties or the presidential campaigns, and wouldn’t be included as staff members.

At the same time, this year’s race will clearly undergo greater legal scrutiny than past presidential elections, even the 2004 race, when a few thousand lawyers were involved in the postelection skirmishing.

Colorado Democratic Party spokesman Matt Farrauto said the party would have lawyers at many of the state’s voting centers, along with non-lawyer poll watchers, watching out for any Republican-sponsored high jinks.

How many lawyers? He wouldn’t say, but the state has thousands of polling centers, and more than a few in remote mountain and rural locations.

“They need not be attorneys to help people vote,” Mr. Farrauto said. “It’s another layer of our field campaign designed to ease the process and help with any problems that voters may encounter.”

Colorado Republicans, meanwhile, plan to have their own lawyers concentrated at an unnamed central location while their poll watchers keep an eye on potential Democratic hanky-panky in the field.

“We’ll have election watchers, poll watchers at every precinct,” said Colorado Republican Party Chairman Dick Wadhams. “We have a very strong legal effort on the ground right now.”

At the federal level, the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division announced it would send 800 monitors across 23 states and 59 jurisdictions to make sure states follow election laws.

“We want to watch things closely and be aware of what’s going on in our area of expertise,” said commission spokeswoman Sarah Litton, who noted that the agency has no legal authority over elections.

High voter turnout, along with a flood of provisional and vote-by-mail ballots, is expected to complicate this year’s election picture. In Colorado, for example, election organizers have said they won’t have unofficial results any earlier than Wednesday, owing to the large volume of paper ballots.

Both parties have their own legal axes to grind. Democrats are expected to keep a sharp eye out for efforts to stymie voters from casting ballots, while Republicans are determined to quash attempts to pad turnout with ineligible voters.

Lawyers already are flexing their muscles in the pre-election squabbling. Democrats won a legal victory last week when a federal judge ordered Colorado Secretary of State Mike Coffman to stop purging the state’s election rolls of ineligible voters.

In Virginia, Republicans scored when a federal judge refused to order longer voting hours and the reallocation of voting machines to black precincts in some localities.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People had sought the changes on the eve of an Election Day expected to produce unprecedented voter turnout in Virginia, now a battleground state in the presidential race.

Meanwhile, a Virginia Republican leader alerted election officials Monday to a list of nearly 300 college students who registered to vote in Virginia and also received absentee ballots from their home states, setting the stage for voter fraud.

The alarm was raised by Republican committeeman Michael Wade, who said most of the students on the list were registered by groups sympathetic to Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama.

Jessica Lane, spokeswoman for the Virginia State Board of Elections, said election officials would examine the information provided by Mr. Wade.

“We obviously take any allegation of voter fraud very seriously,” she said.

Mr. Obama is pushing hard to end the Republican’s 44-year winning streak in presidential elections in Virginia, marshalling a surge in voter registration and anticipated record turnout at the polls Tuesday to flip the Old Dominion and several other states that backed President Bush in 2004.

His lead in Virginia polls narrowed in recent days to between three and six points.

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