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Wednesday, 6 November, 2002, 10:05 GMT
Legal turmoil ahead as US votes
George W Bush with Congressman Saxby Chambliss
Bush has been tireless ahead of election day


In terms of the US mid-term elections, it won't be over until the fat-walleted lawyer sings, or probably more precisely holds a press conference and declares victory.

Two years ago, the US presidency hung by a chad as poll workers tried to discern the will of the people as an army of lawyers did battle in the courts.

A similar scenario might be playing out in several states across the US as a raft of very close elections has both parties with their legal teams at the ready.

Those who hope to know the balance of power in Congress mere hours after the polls close may be in for a long wait, possibly until December.

Expect delays

It is not just the races are close, which many are.

Florida voting card
It was chads in 2000, will it be absentee ballots in 2002?
It is also due to a patchwork of sometimes quirky state election laws, a quirky governor with a penchant for thumbing his nose at the system and a couple of dear departed senators that are haunting these elections.

And 17 states, six of which have close races, have laws that trigger automatic recounts in the event of close election results.

Paper ballots had to be rushed from the printers in Minnesota after the death of Paul Wellstone.

The paper ballots are expected to delay the final tally, as they have to be hand counted.

In several states, millions of ballots will remain uncounted long after the polls close, especially in Oregon with its mail-in balloting system.

The longest wait for a result is likely to come in Louisiana. A runoff vote is scheduled for 7 December after incumbent Democrat Mary Landrieu failed to get a majority of votes against eight challengers

Lawyers prepared

Across the country, the parties' crack legal teams have already been hard at work.

Walter Mondale
Democrat veteran Walter Mondale is battling in Minnesota
The Democrats won in court to have former Senator Frank Lautenberg replace Robert Torricelli as candidate. Mr Torricelli left the race dogged by ethics allegations.

Officials in South Dakota have been investigating reports of forged absentee ballots.

The parties' legal teams fanned out across the country to monitor elections in hotly contested districts.

The Republicans were on the lookout for people trying to vote more than once.

Democrats were watching for voter intimidation like was alleged in some African-American districts in Florida in the 2000 elections.

In the meantime, as the votes are counted and possibly recounted, control of the Senate could swing before the 108th Congress convenes in early January.


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04 Nov 02 | Americas
03 Nov 02 | Americas
03 Nov 02 | Americas
02 Nov 02 | From Our Own Correspondent
02 Nov 02 | Americas
21 Oct 02 | Americas
29 Oct 02 | Americas
01 Nov 02 | Americas
17 Oct 02 | Americas
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