Political parties ready legal teams

Published 11:49 pm Friday, October 24, 2008

MONTGOMERY – Alabama’s Democratic and Republican parties are assembling large teams of lawyers to deal with problems in what is shaping up as the state’s biggest election ever.

Democratic Party attorney James Anderson said Friday more than 200 volunteer attorneys will be ready to deal with any problems that come up at the polls. The Democratic National Committee has also assigned an attorney to Alabama.

At the Alabama Republican Party headquarters in Birmingham, officials are putting together a similar election plan.

Party Chairman Mike Hubbard said each of Alabama’s 67 counties will be covered by a GOP attorney, and poll watchers will be stationed at voting places to ensure the honesty and integrity of the election Nov. 4.

The parties are building legal teams for different reasons.

Anderson and Democratic Party Chairman Joe Turnham said Friday they are concerned that people who are legally entitled to vote may be turned away from the polls.

“Our voter protection team will fight to ensure that everyone who by law is entitled to cast a ballot and wants to cast that ballot can do so without intimidation or inconvenience,” Anderson said at a news conference at Democratic headquarters in Montgomery.

Hubbard is concerned about voter fraud and said the GOP has an unprecedented number of people working to make sure it doesn’t occur.

“It is imperative that we protect the legitimacy of our elections, and it is our hope that these ballot security initiatives will assist in deterring the abuse of our electoral system,” he said in a statement.

Friday was the last day to register to vote. Through Thursday, the voter rolls had swelled to a record 2.96 million, said Ed Packard, supervisor of voter registration. A final count will be available early next week.

Secretary of State Beth Chapman, Alabama’s chief election official, is predicting record turnout Nov. 4, due to the presidential race and hotly contested races in the 2nd, 3rd and 5th Congressional Districts.

In preparation for that, the GOP has set up two phone numbers for citizens to report concerns about voting: 1-866-675-2772 and 1-866-675-5803.

The Democratic Party’s Montgomery headquarters (334-262-2221) will be staffed on election day.

“With record registrations and anticipated record voter turnout, we are anticipating that polling sites may be overwhelmed and that today’s voter rolls may not reflect the true number of Alabama citizens who are legally entitled to cast a ballot,” Turnham said.

Under Alabama law, citizens who believe they are entitled to vote but don’t find their name on the voter lists at a polling place can ask to cast a provisional ballot. Then election officials will have one week to determine whether the person was a legitimate voter. If so, the provisional ballot will be counted.

Provisional ballots will likely decide some races for county offices on Nov. 4, Anderson said.