US Poll: Legal jitters loom again
The down-to-the-wire presidential contest is spawning fears that the race won't end on Election Day — but will simply move from the voting booths to the courts.
Barack Obama and Mitt Romney's campaigns are setting the stage for legal battles in key swing states, particularly Florida and Ohio, if the election result is close enough to be challenged in court.
Already, political operatives and other election watchers are having flashbacks to the disputed 2000 presidential contest. TV screens showed sprawling lines at early voting locations in Florida over the weekend, and groups have headed to court for pre-election jockeying.
Florida — the scene of recount chaos 12 years ago — seemed to hint at possibilities of a repeat. Yet if yesterday's election gets mired in legal wrangling, experts say Ohio is the most likely focal point this time. Such a scenario hinges on how close the vote is there, and whether Ohio lives up to its billing as a critical state for both sides in 2012.
Adding to the potential for Election Day trouble: the massive disruption and dislocation caused by Hurricane Sandy in states such as New Jersey and New York. Both states' officials have authorized voters to cast provisional ballots at any polling place in the state.
New Jersey has gone a step further by authorizing e-mail voting. Computer security experts say e-mail balloting is far from secure, but New Jersey officials say it's a system they've used for overseas voters in the past, albeit on a much smaller scale.
Polls put New Jersey and New York firmly in President Barack Obama's column, so it seems highly unlikely that Election Day trouble in those states will muddy results of the presidential contest.
The far more likely flashpoint: provisional ballots in Ohio expected to easily exceed 200,000.
“If we've got a margin that's over 100,000 votes [in Ohio], none of this stuff will matter,” said Dan Tokaji, a law professor at Ohio State University. “Over 50,000 votes, it probably won't matter. But if we've got an election margin in the low tens of thousands on election night, especially with [Mitt] Romney ahead by the low tens of thousands, then in that situation provisional ballots will matter, and these fights could make a difference in terms of who's president.”