The Note: Je Vais Aider Les Americains

NOTED NOW

TODAY'S SCHEDULE (all times ET)

FUTURES CALENDAR

Morning Show Wrap

Evening Newscasts Wrap

14 days until Election Day

NEWS SUMMARY

Dueling FLOTUS Lincoln Center area lady chat show appearances; dueling heart-tugging 9/11 TV ads; dueling national security and health care messages, dueling national polls; dueling Ohio polls (including one from ABC News); dueling Sean Hannity interviews (Vice President Cheney tapes today and President Bush later this week); and (what will actually decide the election) dueling ground games.

But with voting underway in Florida and elsewhere, and a national voting day in two weeks whose mechanics will be scrutinized more than those of any American election ever, it's time to turn to the intensive effort of ABC News and others to report on what we call "casting and counting."

On Election Day, around 110 million people will vote in thousands of polling places, at tens of thousands of voting machines, attended by tens of thousands of poll workers — all of which will produce literally billions of separate transactions.

There will be mistakes, errors, and maybe even purposeful wrongdoing — any and all of which might affect the outcome of the presidential race and the down ballot stuff.

By our count, there are nearly a dozen significant lawsuits pending right now that could drastically effect the franchise in Florida, Ohio, Colorado, and other key states.

Yesterday's important rulings in Florida and Colorado are but the beginning. Both parties will station or coordinate with tens of thousands of lawyers in key precincts across the country. Names like Christopher Guith and Caroline Hunter and Alma Gonzalez and Bob Bauer will become household names (again).

Many states have totally revamped their election tabulation and ballot casting machines since the last presidential hoedown.

States have reformulated their recount procedures; implemented federally mandated provisional ballot laws; spent millions to recruit more poll workers and train them better; and worked to clarify arcane and often conflicting state rules.

Still — several states continue to use outdated punch card machines. The legal precedents from Bush v. Gore are unsettled and confusing. Literally millions more voters will cast absentee ballots this year compared to four years ago, potentially delaying the count.

They are four crucial areas to watch:

1. Equal protection. Most states have tried to adopt some semblance of equal protection in order to fend off Bush v. Gore challenges. If counties handle provisional ballots differently — or if they count absentees differently — or if they reject voters differently — or if optical scan counties again do a better job of reducing undervotes — will there be an actionable case against an important election jurisdiction on Nov. 2 or beyond?

2. Voter intimidation. Yes, the GOP is still under enhanced scrutiny for decades-ago shenanigans around the country. And there remain mean people who do nasty things every election on both sides. Some top GOP officials wonder whether some "stupid" independent activists — that is their characterization , not ours — will make it hard for them on Election Day by doing "stupid" things unilaterally, like checking identifications at the door to the polls, printing flyers saying Election Day is on Nov. 3, or paying for last minute push polls that aim to confuse some voters.

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