Republicans and Democrats went ahead with plans to dispatch thousands of lawyers to potential election trouble spots even as judges made 11th-hour changes to voting rules in Ohio, a state that could determine the presidency.
Republicans won an overnight victory when a federal appeals court ruled they can challenge voters' qualifications at the polls in Ohio. A lawyer for a black couple who sought to stop the practice said shortly after midnight he had already asked the Supreme Court (search) to block the circuit court ruling.
With the latest ruling coming just hours before the polls open, the effect of the last-minute appeal to the Supreme Court was not immediately clear.
Partisan lawyers will join thousands of outside lawyers and neutral poll watchers on Tuesday, concentrating on Ohio, Florida and a handful of other states where the race between President Bush and Sen. John Kerry (search) is extremely close.
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Democrats and civil rights organizations say Republicans are targeting minority voters in an attempt to reduce the number of ballots cast for Kerry and other Democrats.So The U.S. election looks like being a lawyer fest. Is anyone really surprised? Disappointed, yes. But surprised? Would more rigorous vote registration procedures pre-empt voting day challenges? Or does it just make better "news" to have challenges on the day?
"All of this activity is racial profiling," said NAACP Chairman Julian Bond. "None of it is aimed at white voters. It is all based on the racist presumption that racial minorities are cheaters."
The dispute is the latest in a series of legal face-offs over rules for casting and counting votes this year. The maneuvering began weeks ago and was most intense in Ohio and Florida, each with rich caches of Electoral College votes.