The United States' legal community is on the alert in key voter hot spots as the clock ticks down to Election Day. Amid new charges of voter fraud and still-fresh memories of old recount battles, lawyers are drawing on lessons learned from past elections. And as lawyers mobilized and judges weighed in on disputes around the country, a mock Supreme Court panel ruled in favor of Barack Obama.
The decision is in: Barack Obama has won in the hypothetical case of McCain v. Obama, argued before a prestigious panel of former judges. The case posited a severe snowstorm in Denver that caused election officials to extend voting hours. In a unanimous per curiam ruling of the mock Supreme Court, the panel decided that the equal protection claim made on behalf of John McCain was insubstantial and that Denver election officials had acted reasonably to serve the needs of voters in their district.
With the presidential election imminent, campaign lawyers are once again warily eyeing Florida as a key battleground state that must be won. Attorney Mark Herron, an ethics and elections expert who represented Al Gore in the 2000 election-year recount, discusses the Sunshine State's current election scene. Herron says many of the issues remain the same, but legally speaking, "I'm anticipating the best even though there's a million ways for the train to go off the track."
If the presidential race and hotly contested local seats remain too close to call after Georgia polling places shut down on Election Day, more than 1,000 lawyers across the state hope to influence the outcomes. The dispatch of hordes of lawyers from the two dominant political parties -- as well as other groups -- is a legacy of the 2000 presidential campaign. "If it's close, I think there will be man-to-man combat on every vote," says state Board of Elections member and McKenna Long partner J. Randolph Evans.
Writing that a court "cannot mandate common sense or good taste," a Pennsylvania judge has refused to decide whether political T-shirts and buttons worn inside a polling place amount to "passive electioneering," leaving the issue unresolved for Tuesday's election. In another decision, the judge wrote that he would not require ACORN to turn over its voter registration logs, as requested by the state Republican Party.