July 19, 2004

But it is the campaign of Mr. Kerry that appears to be doing the most to apply lessons from the Florida recount and that is adopting the more fiercely partisan posture in the early going. Its plans include setting up SWAT teams...

More encouraging news from the SMASH-MOUTH campaign of
Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mekong Delta)...

David Halbdfinger, New York Times: Mindful of the
election problems in Florida four years ago, aides to
Senator John Kerry, the presumptive Democratic
presidential nominee, say his campaign is putting
together a far more intricate set of legal safeguards
than any presidential candidate before him to monitor
the election.
Aides to Mr. Kerry say the campaign is taking the
unusual step of setting up a nationwide legal network
under its own umbrella, rather than relying, as in the
past, on lawyers associated with state Democratic
parties. The aides said they were recruiting people
based on their skills as litigators and election
lawyers, rather than rewarding political connections
or big donors.
Lawyers for the campaign are gathering intelligence
and preparing litigation over the ballot machines
being used and the rules concerning how voters will be
registered or their votes disqualified. In some cases,
the lawyers are compiling dossiers on the people
involved and their track records on enforcing voting
rights. The disputed 2000 presidential election
remains a fresh wound for Democrats, and Mr. Kerry has
been referring to it on the stump while assuring his
audiences that he will not let this year's election be
a repeat of the 2000 vote.
"A million African-Americans disenfranchised in the
last election," he said at the N.A.A.C.P. convention
in Philadelphia on Thursday. "Well, we're not just
going to sit there and wait for it to happen. On
Election Day in your cities, my campaign will provide
teams of election observers and lawyers to monitor
elections, and we will enforce the law."
Lawyers for nonpartisan advocacy groups conducting
voter registration drives are also working behind the
scenes and in court to ensure that their new
registrants make it onto the rolls and that their
ballots are counted.
But it is the campaign of Mr. Kerry that appears to be doing the most to apply lessons from the Florida recount and that is adopting the more fiercely partisan posture in the early going. Its plans include setting up SWAT teams of specially trained lawyers, spokesmen and political experts to swoop into any state where a recount could be needed.

Thwart the Theft of a Second Presidential Election,
Show Up for Democracy in 2004: Defeat Bush (again!)

http://www.nytimes.com/2004/07/19/politics/campaign/19VOTE.html

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

July 19, 2004
Kerry Building Legal Network for Vote Fights
By DAVID M. HALBFINGER

Mindful of the election problems in Florida four years
ago, aides to Senator John Kerry, the presumptive
Democratic presidential nominee, say his campaign is
putting together a far more intricate set of legal
safeguards than any presidential candidate before him
to monitor the election.

Aides to Mr. Kerry say the campaign is taking the
unusual step of setting up a nationwide legal network
under its own umbrella, rather than relying, as in the
past, on lawyers associated with state Democratic
parties. The aides said they were recruiting people
based on their skills as litigators and election
lawyers, rather than rewarding political connections
or big donors.

Lawyers for the campaign are gathering intelligence
and preparing litigation over the ballot machines
being used and the rules concerning how voters will be
registered or their votes disqualified. In some cases,
the lawyers are compiling dossiers on the people
involved and their track records on enforcing voting
rights. The disputed 2000 presidential election
remains a fresh wound for Democrats, and Mr. Kerry has
been referring to it on the stump while assuring his
audiences that he will not let this year's election be
a repeat of the 2000 vote.

"A million African-Americans disenfranchised in the
last election," he said at the N.A.A.C.P. convention
in Philadelphia on Thursday. "Well, we're not just
going to sit there and wait for it to happen. On
Election Day in your cities, my campaign will provide
teams of election observers and lawyers to monitor
elections, and we will enforce the law."

The Kerry campaign's legal efforts are hardly
occurring in a vacuum.

The Bush-Cheney campaign says it will have party
lawyers in every state, covering 30,000 precincts. An
affiliated group, the Republican National Lawyers
Association, held a two-day training session in
Milwaukee over the weekend on "how to promote ballot
access to all qualified voters," according to the
group's Web site.

Lawyers for nonpartisan advocacy groups conducting
voter registration drives are also working behind the
scenes and in court to ensure that their new
registrants make it onto the rolls and that their
ballots are counted.

But it is the campaign of Mr. Kerry that appears to be
doing the most to apply lessons from the Florida
recount and that is adopting the more fiercely
partisan posture in the early going.

Its plans include setting up SWAT teams of specially
trained lawyers, spokesmen and political experts to
swoop into any state where a recount could be needed.

"The U.S. has had a policy of being able to fight two
regional conflicts and still defend the homeland,"
said Marc E. Elias, the Kerry campaign's general
counsel. "We want to be able to fight five statewide
recounts and still have resources available to the
campaign."

The lessons of Florida include fairly mundane ones.
Democratic lawyers said, for example, that they had
such a hard time obtaining office space in
Tallahassee, presumably because landlords in the state
capital feared antagonizing Gov. Jeb Bush, a
Republican and brother of President Bush.

This time, Kerry aides say, they are recruiting not
only specialists in election law who work in small law
firms or alone, but also litigators at large firms in
every state who have the resources and office space to
support a long-term, large-scale and pro bono recount
operation.

"We don't want a situation where we wake up the next
day and are scrambling to think of what our legal team
looks like," Mr. Elias said.

The Kerry campaign has already enlisted lead lawyers
in all 50 states, and those lawyers are recruiting
lawyers at the county and the precinct level.

"It's our intention to have lawyers in one fashion or
another covering all of Iowa's 99 counties," said
Brent Appel, the Kerry lawyer in Des Moines.

Kerry aides say the campaign has set up a national
steering committee with task forces tackling different
issues: one on ballot machines, another on voter
education, and a third on absentee, early, and
military voting, to name a few..

At the Democratic convention next week in Boston, they
say, any lawyers interested in volunteering will be
offered training. And dozens of the lawyers already
recruited by the Kerry organization will hold two days
of intensive meetings to finalize strategy, tactics
and assignments.

Democrats say they learned from the Florida vote, and
from the Supreme Court rulings that arose from it,
that the most important legal battles are those fought
before Election Day, over how election laws are to be
carried out, who is allowed to register and who will
be allowed to vote.

Robert Bauer, a partner of Mr. Elias's who is
overseeing the Kerry legal effort, took a historical
view of what he called "warfare over the electoral
franchise." The first phase, he said, concerned who
was entitled to vote and included the all-white
primary, literacy tests and poll taxes that were
eliminated in the mid-20th century. The second phase
was fought largely over the dilution of the vote along
racial lines and used the Voting Rights Act, he said.

"Now, we're into a third phase, that was exemplified
by Bush-Gore, of franchise restrictions that are
accomplished through manipulations of the elections
administration process or of the law," Mr. Bauer said.
"It's about people who somehow can't register, or
can't vote, or their vote isn't counted, and it's done
not frontally, but through legal manipulations."

Those can include the seemingly picayune. In
Minnesota, a lawyer for the Kerry campaign is
protesting a ruling by the secretary of state Mary
Kiffmeyer, a Republican that every registrant must
provide identification that matches "with certainty" a
state database containing registered voters' names,
birthdates and driver's license numbers or partial
Social Security numbers. "It doesn't take into account
a transposition of a number by a data-entry person,"
said Jim Rubenstein, the Kerry lawyer in Minneapolis.
In an interview, Ms. Kiffmeyer said local officials
would have the discretion to overlook an obvious
typographical error.

Republicans are not trumpeting their efforts nearly as
much, though Benjamin Ginsberg, the national counsel
for the Bush-Cheney campaign, said he expected lawyers
to cover 30,000 precincts on Election Day.

He noted that the chairman of the Republican National
Committee, Ed Gillespie, had been rebuffed by his
Democratic counterpart when he proposed recently that
the two parties agree on a list of pivotal precincts
and send bipartisan pairs of lawyers to monitor them.
"Obviously the goal in this is to have every valid
vote counted," Mr. Ginsberg said, "and to not allow
the sort of rhetorical overkill, on either
intimidation or fraud, to be used in a tainted fashion
to interfere with the get-out-the-vote operation."

Mr. Bauer of the Kerry campaign said: "There's not
much interest in depending on Republican agents to
police the polls."

Apart from the two campaigns, a host of advocacy and
civil-rights groups, which often act in parallel with
Democrats when it comes to expanding ballot access,
are stepping up their own election-law efforts this
year.

America's Families United, a racial-justice advocacy
group that is registering thousands of people, has set
up a "voter protection project" to ensure that its new
registrants make it onto the rolls, by comparing each
new voter list to its own list. Penda D. Hair, the
project director, said her goal was to recruit 6,000
lawyers in 20 states who could challenge registrars
when they reject applications improperly.

In South Dakota, Native American officials are suing
for clarification of new election rules. In 2002, they
say, a dramatic increase in voting by tribal members
who often lack driver's licenses or other accepted
forms of picture identification made the difference
in the Senate race that Tim Johnson won by fewer than
600 votes. The state has since revised its
identification rules, and in the special Congressional
election there last month, Native Americans reported
widespread discrepancies in the application of the
rules, said Jacqueline Johnson, executive director of
the National Congress of American Indians.

In some places, Ms. Johnson said, signs went up at
polling places warning, "No I.D., no vote," even
though the law allows voters to sign an affidavit if
they do not have valid identification. Elsewhere, she
said, people living as far as 60 miles from polling
places were sent home to get identification, and
partisan poll watchers sometimes insisted that voters
instead fill out provisional ballots. Ms. Johnson said
such ballots were more likely to be disqualified on
challenges.

The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, meanwhile,
has made a Freedom of Information Act request to
review the Justice Department's communications to
local and state election authorities during this
election cycle. "We're being proactive, trying to head
off any problems at the pass," said Nancy Zirkin, the
conference's deputy director.

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Posted by richard at July 19, 2004 02:54 PM