(NEW YORK) — As voters head to the poll on Tuesday to choose between Mitt Romney and President Obama, thousands of lawyers and poll watchers from both camps are engaged in their own parallel battle over which votes will be counted.
The first shot fired in the battle came Tuesday morning in Philadelphia, where Republican officials protested to the state’s Court of Common pleas that their inspectors were being blocked from polling places.
Pennsylvania GOP officials said that about 75 Republican inspectors in Philadelphia were not able to access polling places.
“This was a shameless attempt from the Obama campaign to suppress our legally appointed Republican poll watchers in Philadelphia and they got caught,” Rob Gleason, chairman of the Pennsylvania Republican Party, said in a statement.
Democrats argued that the issue was about credentialing, and that they were trying to ensure that the inspectors had valid certificates in order to be seated at the polling places. The court quickly issued an order saying that certified inspectors should be allowed into their designated polling places.
The court hearing was the first of what will be many legal tussles on Tuesday, and is emblematic of both campaigns’ reliance on attorneys and poll watchers across the country to monitor voting, especially in swing states. Clawing their way to victory will mean the campaigns of Romney and Obama must ensure that problems with access or machines don’t impair their candidate’s ability to win the election.
In large part, Democrats fear voter suppression tactics, while Republicans are wary of voter fraud.
Volunteer attorneys affiliated with both sides are on the ground at polling stations in swing states, wired into campaign headquarters with smart phones and apps, ready to present challenges to local judges.
Both sides will be concentrating on issues such as voter registration and eligibility, poll watcher activity, ballot counting, polling hours and machine malfunctions.
The first report of machine malfunctions came out of New Jersey, where voting booths at the Millburn public library stalled Tuesday morning and officials switched to provisional ballots.
In key swing states, including Ohio, New Hampshire, Iowa, Nevada and Florida, officials told ABC News that operations were running smoothly.
New Hampshire officials said that polling sites there were seeing heavy turnout and “many same-day voter registrations.”
If states begin to see hiccups in their smooth operations, including malfunctions or legal challenges, judges in all 50 states are on stand-by on Tuesday to issue quick rulings and help iron out contentious issues.
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