US election: legal battles have already begun in key states

Nov 5, 2012

With shades of 2000, lawyers for Obama and Romney are facing off in the key states of Florida and Ohio


ELECTION day has not yet dawned in the US, but already the legal battles that could determine the presidency are underway. Just as in the famous ‘too-close-to-call’ 2000 race between George W. Bush and Al Gore, it is the battleground state of Florida that is at the centre of the controversy.

Democrats have launched legal challenges over restrictions on early voting in some parts of Florida that resulted in some voters having to wait up to seven hours to cast their ballot. There has been outrage in some quarters over what is seen as an attempt to prevent people from taking part in the election.

In another key state, Ohio, Republicans were due to go to court today to defend new rules governing the type of identification presented by voters, which could invalidate thousands of ballots.

"In the battles, Republicans are mobilising to defend against what they say is the potential for voter fraud, and Democrats are preparing to protect against what they say are efforts to suppress voting rights," explains the New York Times.

The 2012 election has already sparked "two dozen lawsuits in the past six months over voter rules, including photo ID requirements and limited poll hours", reports Bloomberg. But it says the biggest wave of lawsuits will come after the election on Tuesday.

"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, Florida, Wisconsin and Virginia, whose votes could decide the election outcome," reports The Independent.

And in addition to the legal cases that arise in marginal states there could be a series of challenges in states affected by Hurricane Sandy. In New York thousands of voters have had their polling stations reassigned and others have been allowed to vote by email, raising the likelihood of errors on polling day.

Writing for The Atlantic, Andrew Cohen said the problems had to be addressed urgently. "Elected officials are making it harder for American citizens to vote and to have their votes counted," he argued. "What's happening in these states is conclusive proof that America failed to solve the fundamental problems we all saw play out in Florida during the recount of 2000. That's just not good enough."

Sign up for our daily newsletter