CINCINNATI (AP) — Two federal judges yesterday barred
Republican Party representatives from challenging the eligibility
of voters at polling places on election day.

U.S. District Judge Susan Dlott said a black couple suing over
such challenges would probably be able to prove them
unconstitutional. In a similar case in Akron, U.S. District Judge
John Adams said it is up to regular poll workers to determine if
voters are eligible.

“In light of these extraordinary circumstances, and the
contentious nature of the imminent election, the court cannot and
must not turn a blind eye to the substantial likelihood that
significant harm will result not only to voters, but also to the
voting process itself, if appointed challengers are permitted at
the polls,” Adams said.

Republicans wanted to put challengers in many polling places,
citing the possibility of tens of thousands of fraudulent voter
registrations in a state both President Bush and Democratic Sen.
John Kerry say they need to win. The Democrats argued that such
challenges were aimed at intimidating black voters and suppressing
Democratic turnout.

The GOP filed an appeal with a federal appeals court.

State Republican Party lawyer Mark Weaver said Republican
poll-watchers will still be allowed to be present at polling places
to watch and take notes.

Dlott ruled on a lawsuit by a black couple who said Republican
plans to deploy challengers in largely black precincts in the
Cincinnati area was meant to intimidate black voters.

Adams’ ruling came in a lawsuit from the Akron-area
Democratic Party, which claimed that the law allowing registration
challenges is unconstitutional because it does not give a
disqualified voter a chance to appeal in time to cast a ballot.

The GOP registered about 3,500 challengers. The Democrats said
they have registered thousands, too.

If the challengers are barred from polling places, the only
people under state law who could then issue challenges to would-be
voters would be the four election officers at each precinct, two
Republican and two Democrat, or another voter.

Under state law, voters may be challenged on their citizenship,
age or residency. Poll workers might challenge someone if his or
her signature did not match the one in the poll book, or if the
poll worker recognized the individual as someone who did not belong
in that precinct.

In a separate case last week, Dlott blocked Ohio’s
Republicans from holding pre-election hearings to challenge tens of
thousands of voter registrations. The GOP had claimed that many of
those registrations might be fraudulent, because mail sent to some
of those addresses came back undelivered.

Democrats said the GOP was trying to keep poor people and
minorities, who move more often, from voting.

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