Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Across the country, the strategy on each side is being engineered by national groups that say they are nonpartisan but that are ideologically aligned with either the Republican or Democratic parties.

The leading conservative group is the American Center for Voting Rights, an organization created last year that lobbied for many of the new laws and now coordinates the legal strategy to defend them from challenges. The group's primary lawyer is Mark "Thor" Hearne, a St. Louis-based veteran of the Florida recount in the 2000 presidential race who served as national election law counsel for President Bush's 2004 reelection campaign.
The opposing side is somewhat less centralized, with cases being brought by several groups, among them People for the American Way, the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Assn. of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN). These groups share strategy and have formed a coalition called the National Network on State Election Reform.

The Democratic National Committee has supported lawsuits in some states, and officials say the party is intensifying its efforts to combat the new laws. The party's national chairman, Howard Dean, last month announced a drive to recruit 7,500 pro bono lawyers and law students to assist in an "election protection program."

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