November 5, 2012 7:05 pm

Lawyers poised amid fears of poll dispute

The tight race between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney has given rise to fears that Tuesday’s election could become marred in the kind of legal challenge that erupted in 2000, when the Supreme Court handed former president George W. Bush a victory after a bitter fight over a recount in Florida.

Those concerns were fuelled by the Republican governor of Ohio, the state that is seen as decisive in the presidential election.

“It is possible, if it’s very very close, that we won’t know the results of this for a while,” John Kasich told CBS on Monday morning. “But again, I’m just not a fortune teller. I can’t predict that.”

One expert predicted that Florida could again prove to be problematic following reports of voters waiting hours to vote early and some being turned away from the polls.

“Even though Ohio is giving it a run for its money, Florida is doing whatever it can to be the next Florida,” wrote Rick Hasen, a law professor at University of California, Irvine, on a blog chronicling potential voting issues. “My prediction is that FL beats OH in the Election Incompetency Bowl, broadcast live tomorrow (all stations).”

While the two candidates are winding down their campaigns heading into election day, teams of attorneys on both sides are just getting started, looking out for any irregularities in critical swing states that could tilt the election in one man’s favour.

“We have all the resources and infrastructure we need for any potential dispute or recount,” said a spokeswoman for the Romney campaign, though she would not comment on the kinds of disputes the Republican campaign anticipated.

In depth

US elections 2012

staff fixes the presidential seal before US President Barack Obama gives a press conference

Republican candidate Mitt Romney takes on President Barack Obama in the race for the White House

In depth

US elections 2012

staff fixes the presidential seal before US President Barack Obama gives a press conference

Republican candidate Mitt Romney takes on President Barack Obama in the race for the White House

The US president’s campaign, in contrast, has released several memos outlining its greatest concern – what it calls a national and co-ordinated strategy by the Republican party to limit access to the polls.

An Obama campaign official said it had recruited “thousands” of attorney volunteers to observe election day polling stations, and that it has opened “pipelines” to experts on voting systems and registration databases in case of trouble.

If the US sees a repeat of the 2000 election and the results hang on a disputed county in Ohio, Florida or even New Hampshire, the top two attorneys for both campaigns would quickly take centre stage.

Mr Obama’s top lawyer is Robert Bauer, a former White House counsel. Mr Romney’s campaign attorney is Ben Ginsberg, who helped lead George W. Bush’s successful recount effort. Mr Ginsberg has faced some controversy already for his alleged role in pushing through rules changes during the Republican convention in Tampa that were challenged by conservatives who said they gave too much power to national party officials.

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