Both Sides Already Getting Lawyers in Line for This Year's Election Challenges

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Democratic presidential contender John Kerry has lawyers in every state, ready to handle legal challenges in November. Fellow Democratic U.S. Senator Bill Nelson says Kerry’s campaign is particularly concerned about voter intimidation.

Nelson recalls questionable road safety checks set up by the Florida Highway Patrol in 2000. “Why was it done on Election Day? Why was it done in the vicinity of polling places?”

Nelson has also alerted Kerry’s camp to the controversy over touch screen voting machines used in 16 Florida counties. He’s asked the U.S. Justice Department to investigate why touch screens have a much higher record of under-votes than optical-scan machines.

Then there’s Florida’s potential felon list which was tossed out after a battle to keep it from news organizations who later found it wrongly included thousands of eligible voters.

Republicans will also have lawyers in every state. But Florida’s GOP is really working to downplay all the hubbub over voting machines, felon lists and voter intimidation.

Republican Party spokesperson Joe Agostini says all the negativity doesn’t help matters. “This plays into the wild-eyed conspiracy theorists on that camp who are hell-bent on sowing the seeds of doubt in the voters’ minds on this election.”

But Florida State University political scientist Lance DeHaven Smith says with Jeb Bush’s brother up for re-election, and highly political Democrats and Republicans in charge of county elections, both sides are smart to lawyer up early.

“To think that these folks are totally objective and wouldn’t try to influence things I think assumes that people are angels, and we know they’re not.”

And early polling suggests this election could be every bit as close as the one in 2000.

The Kerry campaign plans to use the Democratic National Convention next week in Boston to recruit volunteer attorneys who want to help with elections monitoring.