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Saturday, October 23, 2004

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 Republican brownshirts deployed to intimidate Ohio voters

Republican Party officials in Ohio took formal steps yesterday to place thousands of brownshirts inside polling places on Election Day to challenge the qualifications of voters they suspect are not eligible to cast ballots.

Republicans said they had enlisted 3,600 by the deadline, many in heavily Democratic urban neighborhoods of Cleveland, Dayton and other cities. Each recruit was to be paid $100.

Election officials in other swing states, from Arizona to Wisconsin and Florida, say they are bracing for similar efforts by Republicans to challenge new voters at polling places. Ohio election officials said they had never seen so large a drive to prepare for Election Day challenges. They said they were scrambling yesterday to be ready for disruptions in the voting process as well as alarm and complaints among voters. Some officials said they worried that the challenges could discourage or even frighten others waiting to vote.

Democrats worry that the challenges will inevitably delay the process and frustrate the voters.

"Our concern is Republicans will be challenging in large numbers for the purpose of slowing down voting, because challenging takes a long time," said David Sullivan, the voter protection coordinator for the national Democratic Party in Ohio. "And creating long lines causes our people to leave without voting."

In several states officials have alerted poll workers to expect a heightened interest by the parties in challenging voters. In some cases, poll workers, many of them elderly, have been given training to deal with any abusive challenging.

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