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Legal Skirmishes Continue Through Election Day « The Washington Independent

Never have lawyers been so busy skirmishing over an election — and it probably won’t end on Election Day.

Today’s lawsuits and rulings include:

The Ohio GOP filed a lawsuit it had previously dropped against Jennifer Brunner, the Democratic secretary of state, claiming she hasn’t done enough to ensure that all provisional ballots are counted fairly and in the same manner across the state.

The New York Times caucus blog quotes Ohio State University law professor and election-law expert Edward Foley saying that the lawsuit is essentially a “placeholder” — Republicans can use it to challenge election results in Ohio if they are close.

“They are specifically relying on Bush v. Gore and the 14th Amendment and claiming that Secretary Brunner’s rules in handling provisional and absentee ballots are not uniform throughout the state of Ohio,” Foley told the Times. “This new filing appears to be an effort by the Republicans to have the process for verifying provisional ballots be handled in their own lawsuit rather than another lawsuit filed by a advocacy group for the homeless.”

Other lawsuits include one filed by the McCain campaign Monday asking a federal judge to order Virginia to count overseas military ballots until Nov. 14. Although the judge didn’t grant the request, he ordered election officials in Virginia to hold on to the ballots and has scheduled a hearing for Nov. 10 to consider whether late military ballots can be counted.

In Indiana, Project Vote filed a lawsuit challenging Marion County’s decision to reject voter registrations that had been submitted on old registration forms. A judge ruled today that those voter registrations would be accepted.

In Pennsylvania, which has already been called for Sen. Barack Obama, a judge denied a request by voter rights groups that sought to force the state to count emergency paper ballots after the polls closed, instead of taking up to 20 days, as it typically does.

Because this campaign season has been so swamped with lawsuits and threats of legal challenges, both parties have sent thousands of lawyers around the country, particularly in swing states, to prepare to either fend off challenges or bring their own.

At Election Protection headquarters in Washington, nonpartisan volunteer lawyers report that by 8:30 EST this evening, they’d received more than 75,000 calls from voters with questions or problems at polling places.

These lawyers are reporting an unusually large number of provisional ballots being used in Ohio. And in Florida, they are reports of optical-scanning machines malfunctioning, requiring the use of alternative paper ballots. Lock boxes are said to be overflowing. Such problems could, of course, lead to more lawsuits.

The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division sent about 800 observers around the country to monitor the vote, particularly in areas that have experienced voting problems in the past.

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