Trail Tales: Crack for a Ballot?

The election is 14 days away.

As President Bush and Sen. John Kerry continue to pound at each other on national security, fiscal policy and flu shots in key battleground states, voters in some states have already cast their ballots — and there's already some weirdness going on at the polls.

Crack for a Ballot?

In Defiance, Ohio, Chad Staton, 22, presumably is a fan of U.S. pop culture. That may be why he was arrested for submitting phony registration forms with the names Mary Poppins, Michael Jordan and George Foreman, among others.

Sheriff David Westrick told FOX News that Staton was charged with filing more than 100 fictitious voter-registration forms, all of which he allegedly filled out himself.

Staton was paid for each registration form by Georgianne Pitts, 41, who allegedly satisfied her debt by paying Staton with crack cocaine in lieu of cash.

Pitts told Defiance County (search) deputies she was recruited to collect voter registration forms by Thaddeus J. Jackson of Cleveland. Pitts gave the deputies a business card she said Jackson gave her. The card identifies Jackson as the state assistant director of the NAACP's National Voter Fund.

Westrick told FOX News that no evidence suggests Jackson was aware of Pitts' activities or those of Staton. Westrick said Jackson is not under investigation, nor is he yet suspected of involvement in any crime.

Officers said they interviewed Pitts and obtained a search warrant for her home, where they took voter registrations and drug paraphernalia.

—FOX News' Major Garrett contributed to this report.

Who Can Vote Where in Michigan

The Justice Department on Monday filed a "friend of the court" brief in a Michigan case on whether a federal judge can force the state to count ballots cast by individuals voting in the wrong polling precincts.

The DOJ argued that Congress didn't intend to authorize private lawsuits from individuals and organizations to enforce the Help America Vote Act (search) of 2002 and that lawmakers also didn't intend to leave it to the states to decide what voting system to use.

"The Justice Department believes it is critically important that the validity of state rules on provisional ballots be resolved before the Nov. 2 election, so that eligible voters may cast a ballot knowing that their votes will be counted," DOJ spokesman Mark Corallo said in a statement.

Michigan Democrats argue that citizens who appear in the right city, township or village should have their votes in federal races counted regardless of whether they show up in the correct precinct.

Michigan Democrats, the NAACP (search) and voter rights groups say the state's instructions to 2,438 county and local election officials — to disqualify provisional ballots — would disenfranchise hundreds, possibly thousands of voters who cast ballots in the wrong polling place.

Provisional, or backup, ballots are used when voters say they are properly registered but their names do not appear on the voter registration rolls.

The state has requested a ruling by next Wednesday so it has time to train election officials if they are ordered to change procedures.

—FOX News' Anna Persky contributed to this report.

Helping Overseas Americans Vote

Reps. Henry Waxman (search), D-Calif., and Carolyn Maloney (search), D-N.Y., on Tuesday asked the Government Accountability Office to investigate whether the Department of Defense was fulfilling its obligation to help Americans living overseas cast absentee ballots.

Under the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (search), DOD is responsible for ensuring that Americans abroad, civilian and military alike, can vote. The two lawmakers said the agency's efforts have been marked by "inconsistency, lack of transparency, and inadequate communication with the public."

Some examples of recent failures, according to the lawmakers, include: attempting to implement an Internet-based registration and voting project that had fundamental computer and network-security problems; failing to maintain adequate supplies of absentee-ballot-request forms; subcontracting e-mail and fax balloting systems to a private company with questionable experience; and blocking access to a federal government Web site on which Americans abroad can request absentee ballots.

"The Defense Department's failure to improve the process for overseas voters has put us on track to repeat many of the problems these voters faced four years ago," Waxman said.

Added Maloney: "The number of Defense Department missteps in this effort to improve voter access overseas makes me wonder if the department is really doing all it can to help potential voters."

Remedy for the Flu?

The Bush campaign said Kerry's plan to deal with the flu-vaccine shortage was merely a copy of the president's own.

The GOP camp also said the Kerry people were ignoring the fact that the administration had increased funding for flu-related activities by 720 percent. British regulators recently shut down Chiron Corp.'s Liverpool flu-vaccine plant, cutting the U.S. supply of flu shots almost in half.

"The administration was warned about the shortage of flu vaccines three years ago, and they didn't act," Kerry said during a speech Monday that was a broad condemnation of Bush's health-care policies. "We'll crack down on the price-gouging that's putting vaccines out of reach for people who need them today."

The Bush camp issued a document Monday outlining the plans.

"Senator Kerry's plan for flu preparedness is simply to endorse what this administration has been doing for four years," the outline read. "Kerry has opposed meaningful reforms to encourage vaccine production and only now that his obstruction has helped cause supply shortfalls has he come around to adopting the administration position."

It noted that the Bush administration developed a stockpile of flu shots to make 4.5 million doses available for children and that the Health and Human Services Department (search) was buying up drugs needed to treat flu victims.

In each of the last two annual budgets, Bush asked for $100 million to shift vaccine development to new cell-culture technologies, as well as to provide for year-round availability of eggs for egg-based vaccines.

The president also directed public health officials to do everything they could to make sure people who need flu shots the most — children and the elderly — get them, the outline stated.

The Bush camp argues that Kerry has opposed tort reform for vaccines for more than a year but now agrees with the president that the flu vaccine should be protected.

The Republican camp said the Health Act of 2003 would have helped to address the shortage of flu vaccine in advance by extending protections from punitive damages to vaccines approved by the Food and Drug Administration; Kerry consistently expressed opposition to the legislation, the campaign said.

On Bush's Trail

Bush gave a speech on the War on Terror in Marlton, N.J., on Monday, where he slammed Kerry's stance on taking preemptive action against terrorists, among other things. And the infamous "flip-flop" charge resurfaced once again.

"Having gone back and forth so many times, the senator from Massachusetts has now flip-flopped his way to a dangerous position. My opponent — my opponent finally has settled on a strategy, a strategy of retreat" for Iraq, Bush said. "And that approach would lead to a major defeat in the War on Terror. So long as I'm the commander in chief, America will never retreat in the face of the terrorists."

Winning the war takes more than words, Bush stressed.

"Winning the War on Terror requires more than tough-sounding words repeated in the election season. America needs clear, moral purpose and leaders who will not waver, especially in the tough times."

On Kerry's Trail

The Massachusetts senator was in Tampa, Fla., on Monday, slamming the Bush administration's policies on Iraq and promising he would never let Usama bin Laden out of his sights.

"As president, I will never take my eye off the real enemy: Usama bin Laden, Al Qaeda and other terrorists that threaten America and our allies ... we will hunt down, capture, and kill the terrorists no matter where they are," Kerry said. "Just because President Bush couldn't do it doesn't mean it can't be done; it can be done. But my fellow Americans, a president must be able to do more than one thing at a time."

Kerry's running mate, North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, told voters that Bush was trying to "con the American people into believing that he is the only one who can fight and win the war on terrorism."

Poll Watch

A poll of 786 likely New Jersey voters, conducted by Quinnipiac University from Oct. 14-17, found that 49 percent supported Kerry-Edwards, 45 percent supported Bush-Cheney and 1 percent supported independent candidate Ralph Nader and his running mate Peter Camejo. Another 4 percent were unsure. The state's 15 electoral votes went to Al Gore in 2000; the Democrat won the state then by 15.8 percentage points.

A Rocky Mountain News poll of 400 likely voters in Colorado, taken Oct. 13-16, gave Bush 47 percent support, Kerry 42 percent and Nader 3 percent. Another 5 percent were undecided.

Blacks Prefer Kerry

Blacks support Kerry more than Bush by a nearly 4-to-1 margin, according to a poll released Tuesday, but the survey says support for the Democratic candidate was down slightly from what Al Gore got in 2000. Those blacks surveyed preferred Kerry over Bush 69 percent to 18 percent.

Bush didn't get good marks for his handling of the war in Iraq or for his overall job performance, according to the poll from the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies (search). Bush enjoys stronger support than in 2000 from those age 50 and older and those who consider themselves "Christian conservatives."

The group's poll before the 2000 election found Gore led 74 percent to Bush's 9 percent.

The poll of 1,642 adults was conducted between Sept. 15 and Oct. 10, four days before the third and final presidential debate, and had a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points.

Ad Wars

Ad: 'Looking'

Sponsor: Kerry-Edwards campaign

Voiceover: "We see it for ourselves. The mess in Iraq created by George Bush. Over 1,000 US soldiers killed. Kidnappings. Americans held hostage. Bush sees nothing wrong. It's time for a fresh start. John Kerry has voted for the largest military and intelligence budget increases in our nation's history. Endorsed by chairmen of the joint chiefs under Presidents Reagan and Clinton.

Kerry: "As president, I'll stop at nothing to get the terrorists before they get us."

Ad: 'Big Oil'

Sponsor: League of Conservation Voters

Narrator: "George Bush and Dick Cheney. Big Oil's best friends. They supported oil drilling off Florida's coast, threatening our beaches. Halliburton got billions of our tax dollars in no-bid contracts. And they gave Big Oil billions in tax breaks. And special exemptions from cleaning up their pollution. George Bush and Dick Cheney. A record for Big Oil. Not Florida. The League of Conservation Voters is responsible for the content of this advertising."


The National Rifle Association's political action committee, NRA-PVF, also has bought airtime to show ads touting Bush as the right man to send back to the White House. Here are two of the ads:

Ad #1:

Wayne LaPierre: "John Kerry wants you to think that he supports the Second Amendment, but the cold hard facts don't lie. Over and over again, John Kerry has supported new taxes, new restrictions, even outright bans on millions of popular rifles and shotguns. Just listen to what Kerry said before he became a presidential candidate."

Kerry, on CNN Nov. 7, 1993: "Well I think you ought to tax all ammunition more personally, I think you ought to tax guns."

LaPierre: "Don't be fooled. Vote freedom first. Because if John Kerry wins, you lose."

Ad #2:

Chris W. Cox, National Rifle Association: "What would happen to your second amendment rights if John Kerry is elected president? The answer is right here in Kerry's legislation. Kerry's bill would set the stage for a U.N.-style gun ban outlawing millions of rifles and shotguns."

On screen: "All Semi-automatic rifles with detachable magazines ... all semi-automatic shotguns. It's already happened in Australia and England. If we don't defeat John Kerry, it could happen right here (VO of rifle being sawed in half). The future of your Second Amendment rights depends on you. Vote George W. Bush for president."

Funny Files

"The Tonight Show with Jay Leno":

"Candidates are using a lot of boxing metaphors. President Bush kept quoting boxer Joe Louis: 'You can run but you can't hide.' John Kerry quoted Muhammad Ali: 'Is that all you got?' And today Ralph Nader quoted Mike Tyson, 'I'm broke.'"

"Now they say the campaigns are going to get even more negative. Is that possible? One side is calling the president 'a complete idiot.' The other side is calling a war hero with a chest full of medals from Vietnam a 'coward.' How do you get more negative than that?"

"The rumor is that it'll be like the last time. Kerry will win the popular vote and Bush will win the electoral votes. And they say Americans could spend weeks not knowing who's really president, Bush or Kerry. Hey, is that so bad? We spent the last four years not really knowing who's president, Bush or Cheney."

"Scare in Cleveland. John Edwards' plane takeoff was aborted because of an indicator light. Apparently there just wasn't enough electricity for both the indicator light and John Edwards' hair blower. So one of them had to go."

"Here's an embarrassing incident. On two Bush-Cheney billboards in New Jersey, Dick Cheney's last name is spelled with an 'a' instead of an 'e.' So apparently Bush really is in charge of his own campaign."

"Today they began early voting in Florida. And once again, Al Gore lost. The early voting was followed by early screw-ups, early intimidation and early lost ballots."

"Late Show With David Letterman":

"I'll give you an idea how cold it is. The Bush twins switched from margaritas to Irish coffee."

"Because of the flu-vaccine shortage, President Bush says he will not get a flu shot. And Kerry says that he'll just get an extra shot of Botox."

"Have you noticed now that both candidates are using fear tactics? My fear is that one of them will get elected."

FOX News' Jim Angle, Mike Emanuel, Corbett Riner and The Associated Press contributed to this report.