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Here's how they did it this time...,,11...1342055,00.html

All eyes on Ohio as the claims of dirty tricks begin to fly
From James Bone in Columbus, Ohio

FROM the moment the polls opened today, allegations of dirty tricks marred voting in the must-win state of Ohio, raising the threat of a bitter legal battle after election day.

Voters at a polling station in the largely black East Side of the state capital had to wait so long — because of a shortage of voting machines — that some turned away without casting their ballots.

Outside, poll watchers from a non-partisan group called "Election Protection" collected their complaints on affidavits for possible legal action.

"I'm handicapped. I cannot stand a long time in one stop," said John Young, a black voter and arthritis-sufferer who joined the almost three-hour-queue at the Columbia Model Neighbourhood polling station. "I stood there for 25-30 minutes and I said 'Let's go home'."

The voting machine-shortage prevailed at all but one of the polling stations in the predominantly black area, poll-monitors said.

"I believe it's a systematic attempt to short the machines in the black Democratic precincts, in the hope that people will not stand in line for an hour or two to vote because they have to go to work and they are worried about their jobs," said Bob Fitrakis, a political science professor and lawyer for Election Protection.

Both sides fear a disputed result in Ohio, whose 20 Electoral College votes could hold the key to the election. Kenneth Blackwell, a black Republican who as Ohio's Secretary of State is responsible for administering the election, has said that he expects legal action if there is a close result.

Even before the polls opened, 23 lawsuits had already been filed on voting issues in the state. Democrats claimed that Republicans and their supporters were using several tactics to suppress the black vote — which went 2:1 to the Democratic candidate in 2000.

Some of the tactics were blatantly illegal. On the eve of the election, for example, a bogus notice arrived purporting to have adjusted the voting timetable "because of the confusion caused by unexpected heavy voter registration". It said that Republicans should vote at the usual time, but instructed Democrats to wait until today — after the election .

In an 11th-hour court battle, Republicans won the legal right to position "challengers" inside polling stations to question voters' eligibility. Democrats said the effort was intended to intimidate black voters and appealed to the US Supreme Court.

The two Republican "challengers" and their single Democrat counterpart at the Franklin Alternative School polling site in a black area of Columbus did not appear to be causing problems. But there was frustration at the Columbus Model Neighbourhood site because the local election board — chaired by a former Republican official — had supplied only three voting machines despite predictions of heavy turnout, and that was two fewer than were provided for the primary vote this year.

By mid-morning, poll watchers had recorded at least seven cases of discouraged voters turning away because of the queues. "We thought the problem was going to be the 'challengers'," said Mr Fitrakis, who was monitoring eight polling stations on the East Side. "But they don't seem to be very aggressive. They are white and they are in a black neighbourhood."

Despite heavy rain, a large turnout was likely as both parties and several other groups had canvassed homes and offered voters rides to the polls.

"There are a lot of people voting today. It's hard-core voting," said Toyna Reid, a childcare-provider who spent the day knocking on doors to turn out the black vote. "It's a must to vote. They want to make a difference."