ABC News' The Note: First Source for Political News

--In Orlando, what strikes many observers as a legitimate investigation into credible allegations of absentee ballot fraud in the mayor's race has left many Democratic and African American activists alleging that state investigators were trying to intimidate black voters.

Not to mention the chaos many fear if a statewide race is close enough to trigger a manual recount and campaign officials start to scrutinize the touch screen machines. Most touch screen machines don't have a paper trail, so electronic votes cannot be separately and manually audited. If the machine is broken or tampered with (and there are different opinions as to whether these machines break down or can be easily tampered with), the number that appears on the computer screen is, for all intents and purposes, the legal tally from that machine.

Fifteen Florida counties representing 50 percent of its voters, including West Palm Beach, Broward, and Miami-Dade will use touch screen machines.

The Election Protection Coalition includes:

-- a nationwide toll free voter Hotline, (1-866-OUR VOTE) where access to a lawyer is a mere phone call away. 200 will staff the center on election day.

-- a big, prospective, pre-election day voter education program targeted at specific populations in specific states

-- massive election day leafleting, poll transportation assistance and information about provisional ballots

-- a big PR campaign to alert the media to their existence..

It's allied with the American Bar Association, the AFL-CIO, Tom Joyner's radio program, and other organizations.

Not to mention the dozens of Republican and Democratic Party lawyers who will also be on the ground.

For November. the Republicans have offered to partner with the Democratic Party and agree to send lawyers together to problem precincts, but Democrats have rebuffed the offer, calling it political.

Undeniably, the specter of another 2000 — and repeated claims that as many as a million African Americans were disenfranchised in 2000 — stokes the Democratic base. Republican lawyers have held dozens of training sessions with state and local campaign officials to educate them on the politics and policy of ballot integrity — they warn them that Democrats may try to commit fraud and also warn them against doing anything that would smack the media or Democrats as voter intimidation.

The politics of Hurricane Charley:

The Miami Herald's Lesley Clark reports that "Democrats late Wednesday suggested they had found political cover for a [Kerry] visit: an offer from U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., to tour the affected areas. A visit might come as early as Friday." LINK

The Orlando Sentinel's John Kennedy reports, "Hurricane Charley is continuing to churn up the state's fiercely contested U.S. Senate race, with Republican front-runner Bill McCollum scrambling Wednesday to maintain what is seen as one of his strongest political bases in storm-ravaged Southwest Florida." LINK

The politics of Iraq:

The Washington Post 's Rajiv Chandrasekaran and Karl Vick reports that Shiite Muslim cleric Moqtada Sadr has said he's open to talking about disbanding his militia and leaving the shrine in Najaf, but wants to talk details with the Iraqi interim government. Developments are being approached carefully, they Note. LINK

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