WASHINGTON – Both presidential campaigns have an account historically used to pay mop-up costs after the election. But with federal officials now saying these funds can be used to wage recount fights anywhere in the country, Republicans and Democrats are gearing up.
“We have teams of lawyers ready to fly to any hot spot if that is necessary. We're not going be caught flat-footed, quite frankly, as the Gore campaign was,” said Eric Holder (search), the deputy attorney general in the Clinton administration and an adviser to John Kerry’s (search) campaign.
Campaigning earlier this week in Florida, Kerry declared there would be no repeat of four years ago, when the campaign of Al Gore — and much of the nation — was unprepared for a razor-thin election. Gore won more popular votes than President Bush (search) did in 2000 but Bush ultimately got a majority of Electoral College votes once the disputed outcome in Florida was settled in Bush’s favor.
“You have my pledge: You get to the polls — we'll make sure that this time, every vote counts and every vote is counted,” Kerry said.
Both sides have raised millions for their recount funds — Kerry more than $3.5 million, Bush more than $8 million.
“We’ll be prepared,” said Mark Wallace, Bush-Cheney deputy campaign manager. “I’m not sure about the numbers of lawyers we will have but we will be prepared to defend against what we see as widespread voter registration fraud on the left … as well as these challenges by their lawyers trying to overthrow the election laws.”
Democrats say they are prepared to fight over the counting of provisional ballots, which voters will receive if they show up at the wrong polling place. They also will fight over accusations of voter intimidation — even though Democrats themselves haven't been able to define exactly what that means.
— FOX News' Major Garrett contributed to this report.
Scene in the States
Many states are facing legal challenges over possible voting problems Nov. 2. A look at some of the latest developments:
Wednesday: A company hired by Denver to print and mail absentee ballots failed to send out about 13,000 ballots, but election officials hoped to get them to voters by the end of the week.
Wednesday: A group of international election observers said in a report that Georgia's electronic voting machines should create paper receipts and poll workers should get more training. The report is the result of a visit to Georgia in September by a 20-member team of civic leaders, professors, and lawyers from 15 countries.
Wednesday: The state's top elections official insisted that exit pollers for media outlets must stay 100 feet from the polls to ensure "hassle-free, intimidation-free" voting sites. The law is intended to block partisan activity near the polls, but an attorney for news organizations including The Associated Press questioned why it should apply to the media.
Wednesday: Workers taking part in a Republican-funded voter registration drive said they were told to avoid signing up Democrats or people who might vote for John Kerry. The Republican National Committee denied the accusations and suggested that Democrats were orchestrating the charges.
Wednesday: A health organization that promised flu shots on Election Day in six of South Carolina's poorest counties has drawn criticism from Republicans that the effort is politically motivated. The GOP says some of the targeted counties are Democratic-leaning. The organization denied the allegations and said the mailing was sent to areas with low vaccination rates based on federal data.
— The Associated Press contributed to this report.