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Obama, Romney teams 'lawyer up' for Election Day vote disputes

Thousands of partisan lawyers and poll-watchers have fanned out across the country, ready to fight over contested votes on Election Day. Nobody wants a repeat of Florida's contentious 2000 recount.

By Staff writer / November 6, 2012

Voters walk into their polling place at a car dealership during the presidential election in Columbus, Ohio, Tuesday, Nov. 6.

Matt Sullivan/Reuters

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Dreading the thought of another Florida 2000 – “hanging chads” anyone? – battalions of Republican and Democratic lawyers have fanned out across the country, prepared to do battle over every last polling place, every vote if necessary.

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Neither side will reveal the disposition of their legal troops or Election Day strategy. But it’s clear that thousands of partisan attorneys and poll-watchers are involved on both sides, especially in the most hotly contested states and in states that already have gone through the political agony of post-vote fights over election results.

Democratic officials in Minnesota alone say they plan to deploy more than 600 lawyers. Ohio reportedly has 2,500.

"That kind of investment in both human resources and monetary resources pays huge gains for us in the end," Minnesota Democratic chairman Ken Martin told a local television interviewer – as it did in Minnesota’s 2008 US Senate race, he might have added, when it took until the following June for Democrat Al Franken to be declared the winner.

In Iowa, where the 2000 and 2004 presidential races were settled by less than one percentage point, officials are hoping there won’t have to be a recount – which could send campaign and party lawyers into court.

“Elections can be close and it could come to that,” Secretary of State Matt Schultz told the Des Moines Register. At least, he noted, there won’t be a problem with “hanging chads” because Iowa doesn’t use the kind of voting machines that gave Florida such fits in 2000.

In Florida, meanwhile, at least 5,000 lawyers have volunteered to serve as poll watchers for the Obama campaign’s “voter protection” program. Similarly, Republicans are fired up and ready to go in cases where disputes arise.

“Let’s be clear – there are very large numbers of lawyers already deployed – and ready to be deployed with hair-trigger swiftness,” GOP election law expert Robert Kelner told Politico.com. “The slightest discrepancy or hint that legitimate voting is being impeded anywhere will prompt an overwhelming legal show of force. Since the Gore-Bush recount, everyone is on very high alert.”

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