Monday, July 19, 2004

Great Idea!

(NYT) - 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 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 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. . .

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.

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