Battalions of lawyers are readying for legal challenges in battleground states after Tuesday’s election, fearing a replay of the nightmare, razor-close 2000 contest in Florida between Democrat Al Gore and Republican George W Bush, who emerged victorious as President only after a Supreme Court decision. With the 2012 election again too close to call, the Democratic and Republican parties have dispatched legal advisers to polling stations across the country with a particular focus on the politically polarised states of Ohio (where Democrats are understood to have deployed more than 2,000 legal experts), Florida, Wisconsin and Virginia, whose votes could decide the election outcome.
Experts say that their services will only matter if the number of outstanding absentee or provisional ballots is greater than the margin separating President Obama from his challenger, Mitt Romney. The tighter the result, the more likely legal challenges are.
Richard Hasen, law professor at the University of California, told the Associated Press that the problems “have to be widespread enough or the margin close enough that litigating would actually make a difference”. A lawsuit has been filed over an 11th hour directive issued by Ohio’s Republican Secretary of State, Jon Husted, which could invalidate an estimated 200,000 legal provisional ballots, cast when voters change their names or addresses.
Mr Husted’s decision was challenged in court by voting rights advocates and he has until today to respond. The court has promised to resolve the dispute before the provisional ballots are formally counted on 17 November.