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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

An army of attorneys descends on Florida



In the days leading up to Tuesday's election, thousands of lawyers are working the polls in Florida on behalf of the presidential candidates. They insist they are interested in helping voters, not in filing lawsuits, but neither side trusts the other. The filing of a lawsuit Thursday by Democrats against Republicans, amid threats of a large-scale GOP vote challenging effort, could intensify the tension.

This mass mobilization of lawyers (5,000 for the Democrats, an unknown number for Republicans) owes its origins to the 2000 recount. The 36-day ordeal left Democrats feeling overwhelmed by the Republicans' legal operation. "That's certainly one of my motivations," said David Sullivan, a Massachusetts lawyer heading the voter protection effort for Barack Obama's campaign in Florida.

"I don't think it's appropriate for Democrats to have 500 lawyers in Broward and 5,000 statewide based upon their experience in 2000," says Ed Pozzuoli, the Fort Lauderdale who is the South Florida leader of Lawyers for McCain.

Lawyer1 One of those Democratic lawyers is Steven Weiss (left) of Oakland, Calif., who took a week and a half off from his practice to volunteer as a "Florida Voting Rights Advocate" in Fort Lauderdale. "I'm mainly just making sure people are able to vote," he said. "If they are walking away without a sticker on I try to find out why." So far, he said the only worrisome sign he has seen is the length of the line itself. In photo at left, Weiss is speaking with voter Oliver Shields, 29, of Fort Lauderdale, on Thursday. Shields quickly left the early voting site at a library branch because the line was so long, and asked Weiss for information on other early voting locations.      

-- Steve Bousquet and Alex Leary, Times staff writers

[Last modified: Tuesday, September 14, 2010 4:43pm]


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