WASHINGTON – Could Ohio become this election's Florida?
Analysts brood that the state, a crucial part of President Bush’s and John Kerry's election strategy, may see its election system break down under the weight of hundreds of thousands of newly registered voters and a raft of legal challenges.
Kerry's victory strategy depends on Ohio (search). Bush knows no Republican has won re-election without the state.
Kerry and Bush are locked in a dead heat. Both campaigns will have lawyers throughout Ohio looking for any sign of trouble.
This year, 8 million Ohioans are registered to vote — that's up 800,000 from 2000. Seventy percent of the state still uses punch card ballots — which even Florida's gotten rid of after the hanging chads of the 2000 election.
“We have statewide standards for determining what constitutes a ballot vote on a punch card ballot. They didn’t have that in Florida in 2000,” said Ken Blackwell (search), Ohio’s secretary of state. So far in Ohio, five lawsuits challenging the state’s policies on provisional ballots and voter registration have already been filed and settled.
Each Florida county had its own standard for counting a punch card vote. Ohio doesn't count dimpled chads or ballots with only one chad perforated.
The emphasis now is on turning out the vote and Kerry's campaign is out in force — 100 paid staff, 57 offices, 24,000 Election Day volunteers. And pro-Democratic groups like America Coming Together will have thousands more on the ground, many equipped with disposable cameras and video cameras to report any signs of voting trouble.
Bush’s campaign has more than 100 paid staff and more than 79,000 volunteers in Ohio. The campaign reports that it has made more than 2 million calls and knocked on nearly 350,000 doors. Starting Saturday, it intends to knock on 400,000 doors and place 800,000 phone calls to Ohioans.
— 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:
The Latest Reports
A federal judge left it up to the voters to decide on Election Day whether to change the way Colorado distributes its electoral votes for president. The judge dismissed a lawsuit that challenged a Colorado ballot proposal involving the Electoral College.
— A judge ruled that state election officials will not be required to process incomplete voter registration forms for the presidential election. At issue are registration forms from voters who do not check a box confirming they are American citizens, even if they sign an oath swearing they are citizens.
— Nearly 300 voters in St. Petersburg received absentee ballots that were missing the second of two pages, Pinellas County elections officials acknowledged. County Elections Supervisor Deborah Clark promised Tuesday to correct the error by Nov. 2. Her office has mailed the inadvertently omitted page to the 293 affected voters, along with an explanation and a postage-paid envelope.
Five Republican voters have filed a lawsuit challenging a rule requiring provisional ballots cast in the wrong precinct to be counted. A judge was set to hear arguments Wednesday.
A federal appeals court ruled that provisional ballots cast outside the precinct where a voter resides cannot be counted in Michigan. The ruling followed a similar decision by the same court in an Ohio case over the weekend. It is yet another defeat to Democrats over provisional ballots.
A judge ruled that voters will be able to use electronic voting machines Nov. 2, rejecting an effort to alter the way 3 million residents cast their ballots. The judge said the machines have a long record of being reliable.
The state Republican Party filed a complaint with the Mecklenburg County Board of Elections, charging election officials coached voters on how to cast a straight Democratic-party ticket. Mecklenburg County is home to Charlotte.
— The secretary of state ordered county election boards to let voters whose registrations are successfully challenged to still cast provisional ballots on Election Day. The order followed the Ohio Republican Party's challenge of the registrations of 35,000 voters last week.
— The U.S. Supreme Court declined to put Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader on the ballot in Ohio.
Oct. 25: Boulder County officials defended their election system against a privacy lawsuit, saying serial numbers on ballots cannot be used to reveal how an individual voted. Six voters filed a lawsuit last week saying the ballot numbers and bar codes violate their privacy rights.
Oct. 21: The secretary of state issued strict guidelines for poll watchers across the state, limiting each party to one person per station and banning outside groups from sending out teams of lawyers to monitor the election. Parties use poll watchers to keep track of turnout and watch how balloting procedures are performed.
Oct. 20: 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.
Oct. 25: A judge ruled that Florida's touch-screen voting machines do not have to produce a paper record for use in case a recount becomes necessary. A Democratic congressman had filed the lawsuit, seeking a paper trail or a switch to paper ballots in 15 counties.
Oct. 25: A judge denied a request from a coalition of unions and black groups to add four early voting sites in Duval County, home to Jacksonville.
Oct. 21: A federal judge said the state must reject provisional ballots if they are cast in the wrong precinct — another defeat to Democrats who wanted looser requirements. The ruling is in line with one handed down this week by the state Supreme Court in a similar case.
Oct. 21: Republicans accused Democrats of breaking political money laws in Florida. They said Democrats engaged in cozy arrangements among candidates, unions and outside fund-raising groups as part of an effort to turn out voters. Democrats said the allegation was absurd.
Oct. 21: Tens of thousands of Florida voters may be illegally registered to vote in two states, and more than 1,600 may have cast ballots in Florida and one of two other states in recent elections, the Orlando Sentinel reported in Friday's editions. The Sentinel examination of voting records from Florida, Georgia and North Carolina found more than 68,000 cases in which voters with the same names and dates of birth were registered in two states.
Oct. 20: 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.
Oct. 25: Officials denied a request to extend the counting period for absentee ballots that are postmarked before the election but not received until afterward. The decision does not affect military votes. Other ballots received after the close of polls on Election Day cannot be counted under Illinois election law.
Oct. 21: Top elections officials said they were worried about the ramifications of a court ruling this week on how to handle provisional ballots. They are concerned about voter confusion and whether they will have enough time to provide local clerks with the proper Election Day instructions.
Oct. 25: Two Republican voters asked a Nevada judge to reject a Democrat's request to reopen voter registration based on his claim that his voter application form was destroyed by a GOP-funded group. The Republicans said one voter's complaint should not apply broadly to all voters. Nevada's voter registration deadline was Oct. 2.
Oct. 20: 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.
Oct. 21: At least half of North Carolina's National Guard troops in Iraq didn't receive their absentee ballots in time for their votes to be counted, said Lt. Michelle Locke, who helped with voting at a base northeast of Baghdad. Locke, who didn't get her ballot, said troops who wanted to vote in the Nov. 2 general election received special all-write-in ballots that had been sent by the military in case something went wrong.
Oct. 25: Republicans withdrew thousands of challenges to new voter registrations because of errors in their filings apparently caused by a computer glitch. In filing the challenges, the GOP said mail sent to the newly registered voters was returned as undeliverable.
Oct. 21: County elections officials say a court battle over the votes of people who go to the wrong polling place has left them unsure how to train poll workers and what to tell voters about where they can cast ballots. Ohio is the site of an intense, back-and-forth legal battle over provisional ballots.
Oct. 20: 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.
Oct. 20: 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.