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Oct. 20 (Bloomberg) — Barack Obama and John McCain have a litigation game plan to accompany their election strategy.

Both candidates have armies of volunteers to ring doorbells and get voters to the polls. They are also forming squadrons of lawyers who are filing challenges and preparing in case Election Day doesn’t settle the contest for the White House.

Legal battles unfolding in Ohio, Indiana and Wisconsin provide fresh evidence of the potential fights to come over ballot access in an election marked by unprecedented spending to increase the number of voters in strategically important states.

The millions of dollars that have been poured into registration drives have yielded millions of new voters across the country. Those same efforts have now generated heated battles in both parties with cries of voter fraud and intimidation that may threaten the integrity of the election.

Election officials, meanwhile, are braced for huge turnout and the problems that could create with long lines, malfunctioning machines and challenges to voters.

Already, the U.S. Supreme Court has handed Ohio Democrats a victory, dissolving a court order obtained by Republicans to force state officials to release the list of 200,000 new voters whose names or addresses don’t match government databases.

Democrats’ Accusations

Democrats accused Republicans of trying to improperly disqualify voters.

In Florida, Democratic lawyer Charles H. Lichtman has assembled almost 5,000 lawyers to monitor precincts, assist voters turned away at the polls and litigate any disputes that can’t be resolved out of court.

“On Election Day, I will be managing the largest law firm in the country, albeit for one day,” said Lichtman, 53, a Fort Lauderdale corporate lawyer and veteran of the five-week recount after the 2000 election when Florida eventually delivered the presidency to George W. Bush.

Obama’s lawyers also have pressed allegations that Michigan Republicans planned to use mortgage-foreclosure lists to challenge voters. Indiana labor unions allied with Democratic presidential nominee Obama, an Illinois senator, are battling a Republican chairman over early voting in the state’s second- largest county.

2002 Law

Much of the partisan disagreement is over enforcing a 2002 law enacted by Congress to help states prevent a Florida-type recount by requiring election officials to set up database checks to purge voters.

Ohio’s Republican Party obtained a court order directing Jennifer Brunner, Ohio’s secretary of state, to give county election officials the lists of new voters whose names didn’t match drivers’ licenses or Social Security records.

In her successful Supreme Court petition, Brunner called the order a recipe for “disruption” and “chaos” as the state prepares for a presidential vote that polls of Ohio voters predict will produce another razor-thin margin. Database checks are not “a litmus test” for the right to vote, she said in a statement announcing the appeal.

Republicans contend the federal law requires record checks to counter fraudulent voter registration, which they say has been perpetrated by a nationwide network of community activists known as ACORN. The party’s presidential nominee, Arizona Senator McCain, has cried foul over the drive by ACORN — an acronym for the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now — to register 1.3 million voters this year.

Source: Bloomberg

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