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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Still — several states continue to use outdated punch card machines.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.

We know that GOP lawyers in their -pre-election briefings take pains to warn their soldiers away from doing anything like this. And we believe Ed Gillespie when he says he won't stand for that kind of stuff this year. And Democrats will also go out of their way to sniff out intimidation, raising its profile and masterfully enlisting the media in their communications plans. But ignore any flippancy — voter intimidation is real and can have real effects. As can . . .

3. Voter fraud, rule breaking, and human error. With so many new voter registration groups — the 527s and the (relatively under the radar) 501(c)3s, will fraud be enough to tip the balance on Election Day? What about with provisionals? With absentees? Challenges at polls? Confused poll workers? It all could happen, has happened, and will be monitored very closely by Republican attorneys.

4. Electronic voting machines. Let's stipulate that these things work very well and voters seem to like them but that the technology is not nearly as perfect as it needs to be for election administrators to be assured of an entirely failsafe (or reasonably failsafe) election with them.

Beyond this — the machines differ greatly. Some allow a voter to verify his or her entire ballot before submitting it. Others allow a voter to print a paper record of their ballot that counties would use for recounts. They come in different shapes, sizes, colors, and fonts — there is no real national standard.

Given how decentralized the system is, widespread and consequential fraud is virtually impossible. But the machines are imperfect. Computer experts have successfully hacked into several different types.

And they sometimes malfunction. In 2003, Boone County, IL machines recorded more than 150,000 votes, when fewer than 20,000 people actually voted. And poll workers need special training to turn the machines on, turn them off, and reset them during the day. And what about connections with county and state databases?

Suffice it to say, it is vitally important to the country that the final election results — particularly for the presidency — be seen as fair and legitimate by all Americans.

So we're seeking YOUR help — and by "you" we mean citizens, journalists, activists, party officials and consultants, election administrators, and interested observers.

ABC News is kicking off our 2004 Watchdog project today, and The Note — and Noted Now — will be its canvass. Between now and Election Day, look for regular reports on all ABC News programs.

If you want to help, or if you're concerned, all it takes is an e-mail to The ABC News Political Unit: politicalunit@abcnews.com.

You might encounter problems or issues with the mechanics of casting and tabulating your ballot, from rules about absentee votes and voter IDs, to problems with electronic machines in your county, to poll workers who don't know the law.

As we said, we're especially interested this year in the mechanics of voting ("casting and counting") and voter contact. We're looking for any type of communication — be it from a neighbor, a radio ad, a flyer, a billboard, a county elections official, police officer, a secretary of state — that confuses voters or seems suspect.

To submit material to our casting and counting watchdog corps, just e-mail us — politicalunit@abcnews.com.

You can and should start writing us right now — and all the way through Election Day.

President Bush speaks about the war on terror during rallies in central Florida towns St. Petersburg, New Port Richey, and The Villages at 9:00 am ET, 11:40 am ET, and 2:40 pm ET respectively.

Today, Senator Kerry sits down with workers to talk up his plan for job creation, including keeping jobs in the U.S. and reducing business' health care costs. Then he delivers a speech on protecting Social Security (promoted in campaign e-mails by calling President Bush "the most fiscally irresponsible President in American history") at the FM Kirby Center for the Performing Arts in Wilkes Barre, PA at 1:15 pm ET.

At 7:00 pm ET, the Senator attends a rally at Fifth Third Field in Dayton, OH.

Vice President Cheney and Lynne Cheney roll through Ohio on a day-long bus tour, making stops in Carroll for a town hall meeting at 9:10 am ET, in Xenia for a rally at 12:40 pm ET, and finally in Cincinnati for a roundtable discussion at 4:35 pm ET. The Vice President also appears on tape on "Hannity and Colmes" at 9:00 pm ET.

Senator Edwards holds a "Fresh Start for America" town hall meeting at the Castleton in Windham, NH at 9:00 am ET, participates in a community gathering at the University of Wisconsin in Eau Claire, WI at 3:00 pm ET, and rallies Hibbing, MN at 8:10 pm ET.

First Lady Laura Bush, fresh off her sharp criticism on Pat O'Brien's "The Insider" of Kerry's reference to Mary Cheney, appears on ABC's "Live with Regis and Kelly" at 9:15 am ET. She stays in New York to present the Teacher of the Year at the New-York Historical Society at 10:30 am ET, then heads to Primos, PA for a 2:45 pm rally.

Teresa Heinz Kerry has her own morning appearance on the W. 66th St. corridor, appearing on "The View" at 11:00 am ET a short ABC van ride from the "Regis and Kelly" studios.

And Elizabeth Edwards hits the conservative Florida panhandle today, speaking in Panama City at 1:00 pm ET and the Pensacola Cultural Center at 4:30 pm ET.

Also today, both Peter Jennings and Ed Gillespie are in Ohio — the former to anchor World News Tonight and look at the ultimate 2004 battleground state, with that ABC News Buckeye State poll.

And, most staggering of all, at 11:30 am ET today, the mysterious and private Michael Whouley will do a telephonic briefing for the media on the DNC's field plans.

Now we KNOW this is getting serious.

And be sure to watch "Nightline" tomorrow night, when Ted Koppel will spend a "day in the life" on the road with Senator John Edwards as he comes through battleground states Ohio and Pennsylvania..

From the outside:

USA Today 's Keen and Memmott write up the new Progress for America Voter Fund ad, Noting that the "fund's ad spending since both parties' conventions has exceeded that of other independent pro-Bush groups." LINK

The ad, which features a young girl whose mother died on 9/11 and who President Bush encountered and comforted on the campaign trail , is to our eyes and hearts effectively produced.

The buy is very big ($14 million); we wonder how the group bought up all that ad time without creating a ruckus.

Watch this one closely.

ABC News Vote 2004: the polls:

The latest ABC News tracking poll, conducted Thursday through Sunday, shows President Bush leading Senator Kerry among likely voters, 50 percent to 47 percent, with Ralph Nader taking 1 percent. In addition, 53 percent of likely voters said they approve of Bush's job performance overall, and 52 percent give him a thumbs up personally.

Bush's supporters are more enthusiastic than John Kerry's; he leads easily in the personal attributes of leadership, clarity and honesty; and he's stronger on terrorism, Iraq and — a recent gain — taxes, reports ABC News Polling Director Gary Langer. LINK

"One reason Kerry remains competitive is that he's doing better than Bush among independents, a crucial swing voter group. Another is the fact that terrorism, Bush's keystone issue, has slipped on the priority list as the candidates have focused on domestic matters. Just before the first debate, 24 percent of likely voters said terrorism was the most important issue in their vote; today it's 19 percent (and among independents, 17 percent)."

The Washington Post 's Rich Morin and Dan Balz offer up their analysis, Noting that despite his strong debate performances, Kerry didn't significantly move his numbers, though the issues landscape has been sharpened a bit. LINK

Yep. It's a tie, per the latest Times-CBS poll:

"Mr. Bush's job approval rating is at 44 percent, a dangerously low number for an incumbent president, and one of the lowest of his tenure. A majority of voters said that they disapproved of the way Mr. Bush had managed the economy and the war in Iraq, and — echoing a refrain of Mr. Kerry's — that his tax cuts had favored the wealthy. Voters said that Mr. Kerry would do a better job of preserving Social Security, creating jobs and ending the war in Iraq." LINK

"But a majority of Americans continue to see Mr. Kerry as an untrustworthy politician who will say what he thinks people want to hear. More than half of respondents said they considered him liberal, reflecting a dominant line of attack by Mr. Bush this fall."

Quinnipiac University offers up a little Garden State data today, show Kerry with 49 percent of the state's likely voters, compared to President Bush's 45 percent. This is statistically identical to what it was in the Oct. 6 Q-poll from New Jersey.

Kerry has a +6 net favorable rating, and the president net -2. But the candidates' level of support among their voters is starkly different. The poll finds 82 percent of registered voters backing President Bush are voting "for the president. Among Kerry supporters, 43 percent say they are voting more for the Democrat while 51 percent say they are voting more against Bush."

Jim Rutenberg tries to decipher the different formulas pollsters use to make magic. LINK

Miles Benson of the Newhouse News service reports on the hard life of a pollster. LINK

ABC News Vote 2004: Bush vs. Kerry:

Along with the front-page Michael Gordon story on the Iraq war, here is what the Gray Lady is providing its endorsed candidate by way of a talking point today:

"The Selective Service has been updating its contingency plans for a draft of doctors, nurses and other health care workers in case of a national emergency that overwhelms the military's medical corps," reports the New York Times ' Robert Pear. LINK

"President Bush on Monday unleashed a lengthy critique of Senator John F. Kerry's position on Iraq and warned that the Democrat's policies would raise the danger of new terrorist attacks in the United States," write Maura Reynolds and Matea Gold of the Los Angeles Times in their story on the daily to and fro. LINK

The Washington Post 's Dana Milbank and Lois Romano write up Bush and Kerry's hard-hitting back-and forth yesterday over Iraq and terrorism as they fight to convince voters that there's daylight between their positions — partly by name-calling, oversimplifying one another's positions, and accusing one another of using scare tactics. LINK

Today's Kornblut/Johnson round-up in the Boston Globe reports back on how President Bush accused Senator Kerry "of failing to understand virtually every aspect of national security" yesterday and "Kerry quickly countered that Bush has made the country 'less safe.'" LINK

USA Today 's Benedetto and Lawrence report that each candidate "painted his opponent as unfit to lead the military abroad and protect Americans at home" on Monday. LINK

The New York Times ' David Sanger and Jodi Wilgoren wrap President Bush's speech in Marlton, NJ, Monday during which he "accused Mr. Kerry of taking "the easy path of protest and defeatism," a phrase that evoked Mr. Kerry's statements about Vietnam 34 years ago." LINK

Note the odd Karen Hughes passage.

"Senator John Kerry on Monday accused President Bush of a dangerous indifference to the country's health care concerns, using the shortage of the flu vaccine as a metaphor for the broader problems of uninsured families and high-priced prescription drugs," writes the New York Times ' Jodi Wilgoren. LINK

The Wall Street Journal 's Greg Hitt Notes "In many ways, the campaign's final two weeks have turned into a contest between voters' desires to seek change or avoid risk." LINK

In an interview with the Boston Herald, Andy Card said that Kerry "lacks the character to be a strong president," reports Andrew Miga. LINK

Nick Anderson of the Los Angeles Times writes up the intensity of the television ad war at the moment and compares the Republicans' "relentlessly negative" attacks to the Democrats' "increasingly populist attack." LINK

Thomas Oliphant of the Boston Globe takes a closer look at a barely explored Democratic strategy secret in the Sun Belt. LINK

Just in time for Halloween, "Campaigns take scary turn." The New York Daily News Notes both candidates say the other is pedaling fear. LINK

USA Today 's William Welch offers a quick comparison of the two candidates' health care plans. LINK

The Wall Street Journal 's ed board writes "you can tell it's getting close to Election Day, because the senior scare campaign is back . . . This time the attacks are starting earlier, and Mr. Bush is going to have to rebut these accusations as the demagoguery they clearly are."

Funny: we read the piece twice, and we can't find any mention of the fact that the POINT of the type of plan the president and the Journal ed board support is to cut the guaranteed minimum benefit of future retirees in order to take pressure off of the trust fund. In fact, the piece sort of suggests the opposite.

The Washington Post 's editorial board has had about enough with the he-said-he-said on Social Security. "Any campaign, and especially one this contested, is going to have its share of low blows, selective quotations and questionable claims. Still, President Bush and Senator John F. Kerry seem locked in a race to the bottom for who can be most disingenuous." LINK

The Post 's view echoes what we said here yesterday — both sides are now paying daily homage to the title of one of the three most underrated Elvis Costello albums of all time ("Taking Liberties").

Former Vice President Al Gore jumped back into the fray yesterday with a speech at Georgetown University sponsored by MoveOnPAC, and accused President Bush of suppressing information about Iraq that would've interfered with his plans, and deliberately deceiving the public about the intelligence in the run-up to the war.

"Echoing a campaign theme of Democratic nominee John F. Kerry, Gore told about 700 students and activists at Georgetown University that Bush is 'arrogantly out of touch with reality'," writes the Washington Post 's Mike Allen. LINK

Knight Ridder's Charles Homans reports on Gore's speech yesterday, where he did plug Kerry-Edwards in the final five minutes, but the first 70 minutes were devoted to you-know-who. LINK

Yes, Gore perspired, and, yes, he also unleashed some robo-calls on Florida voters, in Tallahassee and elsewhere.

Paul Krugman says "the facts suggest" that President Bush will revive the draft. LINK

In his column today, the Wall Street Journal 's Alan Murray writes that with his comments that it's a "myth" that fewer people have jobs now than they did four years ago, Treasury Secretary John Snow could have cost President Bush Ohio.

The blunt truth is that Kerry is losing the final phase of this campaign," writes the New York Times ' David Brooks. LINK

The Boston Globe 's Beth Daley looks at the presidential candidates' differing ideologies on the environment. LINK

Spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam . . . lovely spam. The Washington Post 's Brian Faler digs out from the deluge of e-mail to observe that both the Bush and Kerry campaigns are "following in the footsteps of Howard Dean, by using the Internet" to implore voters to "do something between now and Nov. 2 to help put the candidates over the top." LINK

The Washington Post 's Ann Gerhart takes a great look at the kids on the campaign trail, and Notes "not since all those well-scrubbed young Kennedys have so many kids been pressed into service in such high-profile fashion." We admit that part of us loves the fact that only Gerhart could get away with describing Jenna and Barbara Bush as "the sassy ones with the swivel hips." LINK

Morning show wrap: Bush vs. Kerry:

On "Good Morning America," ABC News' George Stephanopoulos said Bush "has many more paths to victory" and a "slight advantage" in the Electoral College. He counseled viewers to focus on two states: Florida and Ohio. "Watch Kerry's path to victory if he steals these two states," Stephanopoulos said before walking through all of the other states in the West and Upper Midwest (plus New Hampshire) that Bush would have to win to overcome the loss of both Ohio and Florida.

On "Today," Chris Matthews said Kerry could win using a simple strategy: pick up Ohio and New Hampshire, give up one of the Blue Midwest states, "and you win. It isn't that hard."

On CBS' "Early Show," Craig Crawford was asked about different poll numbers and said that 11 of 12 polls on Election Day 2000 were wrong. Crawford said pollsters tend to underestimate Democrats and minorities. "Democrats are ahead everywhere," he said, including New Hampshire, where "they've registered enough new Democrats … to meet the margin of Bush's victory." (Crawford later noted that Florida registration numbers are even.). Regarding undecided voters, Crawford called them "Those are the kind of people you don't want to go to a restaurant with because they take an hour to order." And asked whether he expected recount battles, Crawford quipped, "I'm not planning a vacation in November. Or in December."

On "Fox and Friends," Tony Blankley discussed the Washington Times ' endorsement of Bush. He dismissed criticism of Bush from Brent Scowcroft, National Security Adviser to President Bush 41, by calling him a Sept. 10th kind of guy who this late in his life cannot wrap his mind around the Post -9/11 world.

ABC News Vote 2004: Bush-Cheney re-elect:

The Los Angeles Times' Ron Brownstein and Kathleen Hennessey look at President Bush's differing, if not necessarily conflicting, statements on Iraq and write that "Bush's shifts have come not on the decision to overthrow former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, but why that action was justified." LINK

Brownstein and Hennessey break down the shifting language of the president on Iraq — from a focus on Saddam Hussein giving WMDs to terrorists to pushing the argument that "building democracy in Iraq would inspire democratic change across the region in a domino effect."

"In Bush's shifting justification for the war, some analysts see a clue to a larger pattern in his presidency."

The AP's Terrence Hunt sat down with the president on Air Force One yesterday and Bush accused Kerry of "shameless scare tactics" on Social Security and the draft. LINK

Some highlights from the interview:

Bush thought Kerry's comments on Mary Cheney were "over the line."

"Bush also said he'd be disappointed if the Iraqi people chose an Islamic fundamentalist government in free elections, 'but democracy is democracy.'"

Asked about the nuclear threat from Iran and North Korea, Bush first said he didn't think they posed a bigger threat than when he took office but then said, "Let me rephrase that." "He said the strategy he has followed 'makes them less likely to take action that would make the world more dangerous.'"

The Boston Globe 's Peter Canellos finds similarities between George W. Bush and Harry S Truman. "Both Truman and Bush won admiration for their quick transitions from being amiable, lightly regarded figures to powerful, decisive presidents. But as the challenges became more complex, and opposition mounted, perceived deficiencies in stature began to haunt them." LINK

Hank Stuever takes a look at the who is Mary Cheney and her place and role in this election, writing that Ms. Cheney has "become this eternal and complicated mystery for people who are gay, and without ever really knowing her or hearing from her, they've spent four years writing poems, articles and protest songs about her." LINK

First Lady Laura Bush addressed Senator Kerry's comments in an interview with Pat O'Brien on "The Insider," saying there were "inappropriate" and she was "shocked" when she heard it.

O'Brian: "Why didn't you think that?"

Mrs. Bush: "I mean I don't think it is appropriate for anyone to bring up anyone's child during any campaign. I just think family members should be off limits because they're not running, and I just didn't think it was appropriate at all.

The Washington Post 's Richard Cohen is over the mention of Mary Cheney, though he calls Kerry's crass in bringing her up, but wants to take President Bush to task for his answer to Bob Schieffer's question about homosexuality. LINK

Mr. and Mrs. Cheney appear in Charleston for dinner and stumping, Tara Tuckwiller of the Charleston Gazette reports. LINK

The Bush-Cheney '04 campaign announced a "NASCAR tour" this morning featuring 14 events in Michigan, Ohio, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania on Oct. 19 and 20. The tour features several NASCAR stars and is targeting NASCAR fans, "a pivotal voting block in this election," according to the campaign.

Not to worry, you won't be shortchanged a speedway cliché — the campaign also Notes that the support of these NASCAR celebs "will have a real impact in driving voters to the polls."

ABC News Vote 2004: Kerry-Edwards '04:

The New York Times ' David Rosenbaum and David Halbfinger fact check some of Senator Kerry's recent statements criticizing President Bush, and find that some, reach "far beyond Mr. Bush's positions." LINK

The duo focus on Social Security and the draft, and rightly so.

Out today: two new 30-second Kerry TV spots.

One ad, "Ever Since," features 9/11 widow Kristen Breitweiser, to air in battleground states.

Script:

Kristen Breitweiser: My husband, Ron, was killed on September 11th. I've spent the last three years trying to find out what happened to make sure it never happens again. I fought for the 9/11 Commission, something George W. Bush, the man my husband Ron and I voted for, didn't think was necessary. And during the Commission hearings we learned the truth, we are no safer today. I want to look in my daughter's eyes and know that she is safe, and that is why I am voting for John Kerry.

John Kerry: I'm John Kerry and I approve this message.

The other, "Looking," slams the president on Iraq.

Script:

NARRATOR: "We see it for ourselves. The mess in Iraq created by George Bush. Over 1,000 US soldiers killed. Kidnappings. Americans held hostage. Bush sees nothing wrong. It's time for a fresh start. John Kerry has voted for the largest military and intelligence budget increases in our nation's history. Endorsed by chairmen of the joint chiefs under Presidents Reagan and Clinton. Kerry: 'As president, I'll stop at nothing to get the terrorists before they get us.'"

JOHN KERRY: "I'm John Kerry and I approve this message."

Glen Johnson of the Boston Globe reports that Senator Kerry's election night location will "probably" be in Copley Square in Boston, seemingly pending approval from Mayor Menino's office. "As many as 30,000 people are expected at the event Kerry hopes will be a victory party. He wants to stage the event outside the Boston Public Library on Copley Square, surrounded by the nearby Trinity Church and John Hancock Tower, aides said yesterday." LINK

An even bigger Johnson scoop: James Johnson (we all remember him) has reportedly begun work on a potential presidential transition on behalf of Senator Kerry!

A surprise police picket line in Orlando yesterday sparked memories of pre-convention Boston. Glen Johnson of the Boston Globe reports that the Senator crossed the picket line at this particular last-minute demonstration. LINK

The New York Post 's Orin and Dicker report that Senator Clinton "yesterday agreed that Kerry blundered, saying, 'In retrospect it's taken up a lot of space and time. I think he was trying to strike actually a sensitive note. It might not have worked.'" LINK

The NRA plans to step up attacks against John F. Kerry "the most anti-gun candidate we've ever had." NRA president Kayne Robinson says Kerry has been "extremely effective" in portraying himself as non threatening to gun owners. LINK

The New York Times ' Kate Zernike reports that Kenneth J. Campbell, a veteran "shown in a new film critical of Senator John Kerry's anti-Vietnam War activism is suing the producer of the movie, saying it libels him by deceptively editing his statements." LINK

"The Washington bureau chief of Sinclair Broadcast Group was fired yesterday after accusing the media company of 'indefensible' conduct for planning to air a movie attacking Senator John Kerry's Vietnam record in the coming days," the Washington Post 's Howard Kurtz reports. LINK

The Los Angeles Times reports on the Sinclair firing as well. LINK

The politics of the flu:

USA Today 's Jill Lawrence has this diagnosis: "In a campaign season dominated by war and terrorism, a personal issue is suddenly at center stage. Anxious seniors are lining up for hours outside clinics and supermarkets in hopes of a shot as the candidates trade shots of another kind." LINK

More: "Flu politics could have particular impact in Florida, with its large senior population. Kerry stopped in four cities Sunday and Monday, raising the issue among others as he urged people to cast early votes."

USA Today 's Dennis Cauchron talked to seniors in Newark, OH, who "did not hold any politician accountable for a sudden problem that has been thrust into their lives just before the Nov. 2 election. Even supporters of Democratic candidate John Kerry did not blame President Bush for the shortage of flu vaccines." LINK

Meanwhile, the American College of Emergency Physicians is worried about a possible "'public health disaster,'" which the Department of Health and Human Services dismissed as a "'money grab'" by the doctors, reports USA Today 's Robert Davis. LINK

ABC News Vote 2004: casting and counting:

Hiccups in Florida, long lines and some frustration, but the voting machines themselves seemed to work just fine. LINK

The Chicago Sun-Times' Jill Barton reports that "only a few glitches were reported." LINK

The New York Times ' Abby Goodnough is more pessimistic:

She wrote that some of the problems from the 2000 election "immediately resurfaced: long lines, trouble verifying voter registration data and a sense among black voters that they were being unfairly treated." LINK

Rep. Robert Wexler's attempt to force officials to give people using electronic machines the option of using a paper ballot finally hit a courtroom yesterday. LINK

Yesterday's provisional ballot ruling, explained. LINK

And the Supervisor of Elections in Duval County has resigned. LINK

The Columbus Dispatch's Mark Niquette writes up Secretary Blackwell's revised provisional ballot directive. Democrats claim the revision is not "a good faith effort" at incorporating the district court's recent ruling. LINK

"Both parties are tapping a little-used Ohio law to recruit hundreds of lawyers and others as challengers and witnesses, allowing them to question the eligibility of voters at the polls and to watch the counting of ballots," reports the Columbus Dispatch. LINK

"With just two weeks remaining before the Nov. 2 presidential election, a coalition of private citizens and local elected officials in New Jersey plan to file a lawsuit today to block the state's use of electronic voting machines," reports the New York Times ' Tom Zeller Jr. LINK

The Democratic Party in Nevada cries of judicial partisanship on the part of District Court Judge Valerie Adair. Adair rejected the reopening of registration to Democrats whose forms might have been destroyed by a Republican-backed organization. LINK

"The whole idea if you're registered Democrat or registered Republican, that doesn't mean you can't be fair and impartial," Adair said. "Every judge is a member of one party or another."

Kirsten Searer of the Las Vegas Sun files an in-depth report on the allegations of fraud in Nevada, focusing on several lawsuits filed by Voices for Working Families. LINK

Despite problems with fraud, over 27,000 early votes appear to have gone off smoothly, according to Dan Kulin of the Las Vegas Sun. LINK

The Washington Post 's Jo Becker reports that the Justice Department is arguing in federal court that Democrats don't have the right to challenge state election laws in Michigan or elsewhere regarding the counting of provisional ballots. LINK

Knight Ridder's Patrick Kerkstra reports, "U.S. service members based in Iraq and across the globe can't be confident that their votes will be counted in this year's presidential election, analysts and military advocates said this week." LINK

The Oregon AP reports on another sort of absentee voting irregularity: ballot weight. To avoid paying the extra 23 cents, use lighter envelopes with no paper clips. Or drop it off in person. LINK

Tens of thousands flooded elections offices in Washington state for the last day to register to vote, J. Patrick Coolican of the Seattle Times reports. LINK

The Washington Post 's Peter Slevin and Dan Keating look at the success claimed by both Republicans and Democrats in new voter registration — they're about even in registration efforts in Florida, Colorado, Nevada, New Hampshire, and New Mexico, according to a Washington Post study. They also throw in a warning from Curtis Gans not to go jumping to conclusions about what increased registration actually means in the end. LINK

ABC News Vote 2004: Florida:

Kerry drew 5,000 to Orlando's Barnett Park on the first day of early voting. LINK

The Washington Post 's Manuel Roig-Franzia reviews the start of early voting in Florida. LINK

The Washington Post 's Darryl Fears looks at the get-out-the-vote effort by Democratic surrogates in Florida — in particular, members of the Congressional Black Caucus and actors Alfre Woodard, Charlie Sheen, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus. LINK

ABC News Vote 2004: Pennsylvania:

Bush wins the Philadelphia headline war this morning. Front page of the Philadelphia Daily News: "Bush Endorses T.O." You have GOT to check out the photo. LINK

The Daily News' Bowen writes, "You'd think Bush might have more pressing matters on his mind right now, two weeks before he stands for re-election, pressing enough to preclude much awareness of Eagles wide receiver Terrell Owens." Not in Eagles country he doesn't! LINK

The Philadelphia Daily News also writes "Bush's visit to the Garden State buoyed the spirits of his supporters there." LINK

Dave Davies of the Philadelphia Daily News gives Edwards' Haverford College event a stellar write-up. Just check out this lede, "He will fight them in the streets. He will fight them in the condos, the colleges and the tract housing." LINK

While President Bush and Senator Edwards get the attention in the Philly papers, Cheney takes the lead in the Pittsburgh papers following his Johnstown "town meeting-style rally here yesterday that centered on national security and traditional values." LINK

The Pittsburgh area also got a taste of native son Andre Heinz, on hand to discuss his stepfather's environmental policies. LINK

Senator Arlen Specter was out and about touting his Pennsylvania AFL-CIO endorsement (Note: the PA AFL-CIO also endorsed Senator Kerry.) "Union chiefs with 'Kerry/Edwards' bumper stickers on their cars were wearing Specter stickers on their lapels in front of the television cameras yesterday." LINK

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review is not forgetting Specter's challenger Rep. Joe Hoeffel and how a Kerry win could push him over the top. LINK

The Philadelphia Inquirer's Infield reports, "A surge in voter registration that includes more than 100,000 new voters in Philadelphia since April has raised Democratic hopes of carrying Pennsylvania for John Kerry on Nov. 2." LINK

"Republicans said that GOP gains in other areas of the state will at least partially offset Democratic gains in Southeastern Pennsylvania, not only in Philadelphia but also in its suburbs."

Target: Erie, PA. "In the United States, 141 television markets are bigger than Erie's, which includes Meadville. But a survey done in midsummer found that only seven markets nationally — and none in the state — were getting exposed to more ads related to the presidential campaign." LINK

Pennsylvania is peppered with its own voting issue eruptions — from Scranton to Pittsburgh. LINK

John Grogan's Philadelphia Inquirer column looks at just how personal this whole race has become. LINK

ABC News Vote 2004: Ohio:

Mark Naymik takes a must-read look at the direct mail flooding Ohio mailboxes. LINK

The Columbus Dispatch looks at the extremely high stakes for Secretary Blackwell this election season. LINK

John Kerry's name was mistakenly missing from at least a couple of absentee ballots in Hamilton County. LINK

And since "World News Tonight" with Peter Jennings will be coming to you from Cincinnati this evening (and we'll have a new ABC News Ohio poll!!!), we thought we would update you on Hamilton County registration numbers courtesy of the Cincinnati Enquirer.

"More than 84,000 new voters have joined the Hamilton County rolls since January, board director John Williams said. That compares with 41,028 new voters in 2000 and 47,894 new voters in 1996." LINK

We all know about the wall between the editorial pages and news pages in newspapers. But we still can't help but wonder if having a Columbus Dispatch reporter traveling with Senator Kerry for a few days this week increases or decreases his chances of breaking that paper's 88-year streak of endorsing Republicans for president.

Sunday is just five days away.

ABC News Vote 2004: Nevada:

The AP reports on members of a Nevada high school band wanting a change in policy to let them perform at political events. LINK

Senator Kerry prepares for his first stop in Reno, Anjeanette Damon of the Gazette-Journal reports. LINK

Ticket information for Kerry's visit: LINK

Nevada Democrats try to curry the favor of Hispanic voters with a rally in Reno. LINK

ABC News Vote 2004: Colorado:

Burt Hubbard of the Rocky Mountain News reports Colorado has more than 3 million registered voters in the state --180,000 more than the last presidential election in 2000. "The wave of voter registration drives that rolled across Colorado swelled rolls by about 110,000 new voters — more than half unaffiliated with a political party — in less than a month." LINK

While Colorado's voter rolls may have passed the 3 million mark, the Denver Post reports "as many as 55,000 names appear in the secretary of state's voter list more than once." County clerks have their work cut out for them. LINK

The Denver Post looks at the "battle of the 'burbs" as voters grapple with a decision. LINK

A Denver District Judge overturned Colorado's new absentee ballot rule yesterday. Now "any voter who requests an absentee ballot but fails to fill it out will be allowed to cast a provisional ballot at the polls," reports Gabrielle Crist of the Rocky Mountain News.

It was a mixed ruling for Common Cause, the government watchdog group that sued the state's voting rules. The judge upheld a rule that voters must show identification at their polling place. LINK

The Rocky Mountain News reports strong turnout for Colorado's early voters. "I've heard everybody talking about the election, all the hip-hop artists are talking about, y'know, 'vote or die,' and I thought, 'Yeah, cool. I'll vote now,' " said the 23-year-old doughnut shop worker, affixing an I Voted sticker to the brim of his baseball cap. LINK

ABC News Vote 2004: Iowa:

Wes Clark continues his assault on the president, making his first appearance in Iowa since he declared his candidacy for president. Apologies are made for skipping the January caucuses, the Des Moines Register 's Lynn Campbell reports. LINK

You know the campaign's getting nasty when normally kind Iowans steal signs and replace bumper stickers. Police say they just don't have the manpower to investigate every gone-missing yard sign, the Des Moines Register reports. LINK

ABC News Vote 2004: New Hampshire:

Democrats in New Hampshire have been targeting college students to register to vote there (a chunk of the 50,000 of them could indeed make a difference on Nov. 2), but Republicans are doing what they can, the Boston Globe 's Slack reports. LINK

Nader-Camejo:

USA Today reports on the Nader-Camejo campaign's plans for a final push. The AP headline from yesterday's press conference in Washington is that Nader "doesn't mind" his former running mate Winona La Duke backing John Kerry. LINK

The Columbus Dispatch reports there's new ammo for the Nader the Spoiler Legend. Elections workers were removing Nader's name from the ballot "inadvertently struck the name of Kerry instead." And election official said only two voters got the incorrect ballots. "Mistakes happen in every election," said John Williams, county elections director. LINK

On Monday a federal appeals court ruled that "it would not grant presidential candidate Ralph Nader an injunction to block a lower court's order that removed him from the Ohio ballot," reports the AP. Nader still has a shot through the Ohio Supreme Court. LINK

The economy:

AP reports that consumer prices rose by an expected 0.2 percent in September, with cheaper new cars and airfares offsetting more expensive medical care, gas and oil. A larger than expected 0.3 percent increase in core prices (excluding fuel and food) was fueled by higher housing prices, according to the Labor Department.

The politics of Iraq:

Michael Gordon of the New York Times has a long take-out on the strategic misassessments led commanders to blind spots about an insurgency. LINK

"The United Nations has failed to fully staff its operation in Iraq, imperiling the timing and quality of the elections there and forcing inexperienced Iraqis to take the lead in preparing for the country's first democratic balloting, due in January, U.S. officials and election experts said," reports the Washington Post 's Robin Wright and Colum Lynch. They also report that U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan told reporters (rather astonishingly) on Friday that the body would not monitor the Iraqi elections. LINK

USA Today 's Slavin and Nichols report on their paper's ed board meeting with Secretary of State Colin Powell, in which Powell "disparaged a suggestion by [Kerry] that an international summit would draw more foreign troops to Iraq." LINK

In the New York Times , Gen. Tommy Franks responds to Kerry criticism that the Bush administration allowed Osama Bin Laden to escape at Tora Bora and took focus away from Afghanistan by going into Iraq. LINK

The Washington Post 's Walter Pincus reports that the U.S. intelligence community is taking seriously a message on an Islamic Web site in which Abu Musab Zarqawi is said to have sworn allegiance to Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda. LINK

The Los Angeles Times' Josh Meyer reports, "U.S. counter-terrorism officials Monday described as "credible" an Internet announcement in which Abu Musab Zarqawi's network in Iraq purportedly "pledged allegiance" to Osama bin Laden." LINK

The Washington Post 's David Ignatius questions whether the president has learned anything from Iraq. LINK

ABC News Vote 2004: the Senate:

Betty Castor and Mel Martinez debated to a nasty draw last night, according to the coverage. LINK

A Rocky Mountain News and News 4 poll shows Senate candidate Pete Coors now leads his Democratic opponent Ken Salazar 45 to 40 percent. The Rocky Mountain News repots Salazar led Coors 52 percent to 42 percent a month ago. LINK

USA Today 's Andrea Stone examines Murkowski vs. Knowles, Noting that "the race has developed into a clash of visions." LINK

The Charlotte Observer's Tim Funk looks at the Carolina component of eight competitive races. LINK

Things are getting uglier in the race for the Oklahoma Senate, Roll Call reports. LINK

On CNN's "American Morning," Illinois Democratic Senate candidate Barack Obama, who enjoys a 45 point lead over Republican Alan Keyes, said: "You enjoy the hype but I tend to be suspicious of hype because I know how hard it is to get stuff done in politics." .

ABC News Vote 2004: the House:

"Though too late at least for next month's election, the Supreme Court on Monday gave Texas Democrats a renewed chance to challenge the Congressional redistricting plan that is expected to cost as many as five Democratic incumbents their House seats," reports the New York Times ' Linda Greenhouse. LINK

The Washington Post 's Charles Lane reports that thus, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's plan to boost GOP representation in the Lone Star State may yet be struck down. LINK

The politics of faith:

The Washington Times ' Bill Sammon reports "Redeem the Vote" is the religious communities answer to "Rock the Vote." The group is touring battleground states with Christian rock bands and voter and "putting the fear of God in to John Kerry's supporters." LINK

The politics of same-sex marriage:

"A special commission of the worldwide Anglican Church on Monday called on leaders of its U.S. affiliate, the Episcopal Church, to express regret for consecrating a gay bishop and proposed a moratorium on further ordination of gays and the blessing of same-sex unions," writes the Washington Post 's Glenn Frankel. LINK

The Schwarzenegger era:

"Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger endorsed a $3-billion measure Monday to fund embryonic stem cell research, a move that could be pivotal in one of the year's most closely watched initiative campaigns," reports the Los Angeles Times Matthews and Garvey. LINK

We'd imagine John Kerry might mention Arnold Schwarzenegger's name the next time embryonic stem cell research comes up in his stump speech.

The Governor supports a blanket primary as well. LINK

So: when does he to go Ohio? And will it be at the president's side, or solo?

Politics:

Roll Call 's Paul Kane reports "a little-noticed wrinkle in new campaign finance laws forbids federal lawmakers from transferring their cash to a state race" which may complicate "the gubernatorial ambitions of at least a handful of Members of Congress." LINK

The Washington Times has an excellent photo of the POTUS 41 and FLOTUS 41 carrying out their civic duty. LINK

Jon Stewart versus Tucker Carlson is the lead story on the Chicago Tribune's Web site. LINK

TODAY'S SCHEDULE (all times ET):

—8:30 am: Consumer Price Index for September is released

—8:30 am: New housing starts for September are released

—9:00 am: President Bush speaks at a Victory 2004 Rally at Progress Energy Park, St. Petersburg, FL

—9:00 am: Sen. John Edwards holds a "Fresh Start for America" town hall meeting at the Castleton, Windham, NH

—9:00 am: Sen. Hillary Clinton speaks at the final day of the International Lion of Judah Conference hosted by the United Jewish Communities at the Washington Hilton, Washington, DC

—9:10 am Vice President Cheney and Lynne Cheney host a town hall meeting at the Historical Aircraft Squadron Hangar, Carroll, OH

—9:15 am: Laura Bush appears on ABC's "Live with Regis and Kelly"

—10:00 am: Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan talks about the mortgage market and consumer debt at a bankers meeting in DC

—10:00 am: Michael White, Director of Legal Affairs for the National Archives Office of the Federal Register, gives a briefing on the Electoral College at the National Archives Building, Washington, DC

—10:00 am: Leading voices on women's issues and nationally known pollsters hold a media briefing to discuss the issues driving women voters and what's at stake for women in the presidential race at the National Press Club, Washington, DC

—10:30 am: Greg Palast, BBC investigative reporter; and Ralph Neas, president of People for the American Way, hold a teleconference to discuss an article in next week's Harper's on voter fraud in Florida

—10:30 am: Laura Bush speaks at the Preserve America Teacher of the Year presentation at the New-York Historical Society, New York, NY

—11:00 am: RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie and Ohio Republican Party Chairman Bob Bennett hold a press conference to announce a major statewide anti-election fraud effort at the Ohio Republican Party Headquarters, Columbus, OH

—11:00 am: Teresa Heinz Kerry appears on "The View"

—11:00 am: NASCAR drivers Darrell Waltrip and Jeff Hammonds campaign on behalf of President Bush at Streeters, Traverse City, MI

—11:40 am: President Bush speaks at a Victory 2004 rally at Sims Park, New Port Richey, FL

—12:00 pm: Secretary of State Colin Powell hosts a meeting with the Small Business Leaders of America at the State Department, Washington, DC

—12:00 pm: Electionline.org releases its last report of 2004 at a press briefing, "Election Preview 2004: What's Changed, What Hasn't and Why" at the National Press Club, Washington, DC

—12:40 pm: Vice President Cheney and Lynne Cheney attend a Victory 2004 Rally at the Greene County Fairgrounds, Xenia, OH —1:00 pm: Sen. John Kerry holds a conversation with workers, Wilkes Barre, PA

—1:00 pm: Elizabeth Edwards speaks at the Glenwood Community Center, Panama City, FL

—1:00 pm: The Center for Media and Public Affairs holds a discussion on "The Media and Campaign 2004: Kerry's Fall in Favorability" at the National Press Club, Washington, DC

—1:15 pm: Sen. John Kerry delivers a speech on protecting Social Security and restoring fiscal discipline at the FM Kirby Center for the Performing Arts, Wilkes Barre, PA

—2:00 pm: The American Enterprise Institute hosts a discussion on "Absentee Ballot Voting," with Norm Ornstein and John Fortier, AEI, and others, Washington, DC

—2:15 pm: NASCAR drivers Darrell Waltrip and Jeff Hammonds campaign on behalf of President Bush at Craig's Cruisers, Grand Rapids, MI

—2:40 pm: President Bush speaks at a Victory 2004 rally, The Villages, FL

—2:45 pm: Laura Bush speaks at a rally at the Primos-Secane-Westbrook Park Fire Co., Primos, PA

—3:00 pm: Sen. Edwards attends a community gathering at the Univ. of Wisconsin, Eau Claire, WI

—3:00 pm: The Pentagon holds a briefing on operations and mission in Afghanistan, Washington, DC

—4:30 pm: Elizabeth Edwards speaks at the Pensacola Cultural Center, Pensacola, FL

—4:30 pm: NASCAR drivers Bill Elliott, Jack Roush, Benny Parsons, Eddie Wood campaign on behalf of President Bush at Nell Jean Sportsmen, Beckley, WV

—4:35 pm: Vice President Cheney and Lynne Cheney hold a roundtable discussion at Price Hill Chili, Cincinnati, OH

—5:05 pm: NASCAR drivers Darrell Waltrip and Jeff Hammonds campaign on behalf of President Bush at Bonkers, Flint, MI

—6:45 pm: NASCAR drivers Bill Elliott, Jack Roush, Benny Parsons, and Eddie Wood campaign on behalf of President Bush at Rock Lake Putt-Putt, Charleston, WV

—7:00 pm: Sen. Kerry holds a rally at Fifth Third Field, Dayton, OH

—7:50 pm: NASCAR drivers Darrell Waltrip and Jeff Hammonds campaign on behalf of President Bush at the Northwest Ohio Victory Center, Toledo, OH

—8:10 pm: Sen. Edwards holds a "Fresh Start for America" rally at the Hibbing Memorial Building, Hibbing, MN