updated 7/20/2004 10:27:07 AM ET 2004-07-20T14:27:07

With 4 months to go before Election Day, both the Kerry and Bush campaigns are preparing for the nightmare scenario—another tie. Teams of recount lawyers have been assembled, training sessions are underway, and office space in some states has already been reserved.  It all comes as fears are growing across the country that Florida-like problems have not been solved and that this election could be worse. 

With the election looking awfully tight in a dozen crucial battleground states, members of both parties acknowledge there are six or seven states where they believe recount problems would be worse than in Florida. In the states of Ohio, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Florida, Iowa, and Arkansas, national party officials are deeply concerned about voting lists, fraud, old machines, and problems with the new voting machines. One official told me that a recount in any one of these battleground states would be “a train wreck far worse than the 2000 election.”

The Kerry campaign is taking the unusual step of assembling a nationwide legal network under its own umbrella. The team is preparing for possible litigation. It is already analyzing voter registration guidelines and dissecting recount procedures.

Even John Kerry is talking about the 2000 debacle in his standard stump speech. At the NAACP convention, Kerry said, “We’re not going to sit there and wait for it to happen.  On election day, in your cities, my campaign will provide teams of election observers and lawyers to monitor elections, and we will enforce the law.”

The Kerry campaign is not alone. The Bush campaign also says it will have a team of lawyers in every state covering more than 30,000 election precincts.  And Republicans have already started ballot access training sessions for lawyers and election observers.

One complicating factor for both campaigns (and all of their lawyers) is the record number of absentee ballots expected in this election.  In Florida, for example, a much larger number of residents are serving oversees compared to 4 years ago— not to mention that absentee ballots usually take a few days after an election to be examined and counted.

"Hardball with Chris Matthews" airs weeknights, 7 p.m. ET on MSNBC.


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