By Chip Reid Correspondent
NBC News
updated 10/21/2004 9:22:10 PM ET 2004-10-22T01:22:10

In Fort Lauderdale, the early voters are already at the polls — and so are the lawyers. They are volunteers, like Patrick Scott with Sen. John Kerry’s campaign.

"Regardless of the party, what candidate you're voting for, the bottom line is you live in the United States and you're entitled to vote," says Scott.

The lawyers can't coach voters, but may answer questions about the law and file objections with officials if they believe the rules have been violated.

This is no small-time legal operation. In fact there's never been anything like that. The Democrats hope to have some 10,000 lawyers available on Election Day — 2,000 of them in Florida. The lawyers are trained in election law and then sent to battleground states across the nation. Most will be poll watchers.

But the Democrats will also have six so-called "S.W.A.T Teams" of experienced litigators ready to jet, by private plane, to Election Day trouble spots.

Critics say the involvement of so many lawyers only increases the odds of repeating Florida 2000, when the presidential election became a courtroom drama.

But Steve Zack, head of the Democrats' Florida legal team, says it's better to get legal problems ironed out now than after Election Day.

"I don't think anybody in this country really wants to see this decided again by the courts and the lawyers," says Zack. That's not the purpose of an election. The purpose of an election is to elect a president by the citizens."

Lawyers with President George W. Bush’s campaign say they too are preparing for the possibility of another round of legal combat.

"I think there will be litigation," says Barry Richard, the Florida legal director of the Bush campaign. "I think there probably will be lawsuits filed after the election. I think there will probably be problems that arise during the election that we can't even foresee now."

Doug Chapin is with the non-partisan group Electionline.org.

"Yes, we could have a Florida times-three or five or six in the weeks following Election Day," he says.

That nightmare scenario, Chapin says, is unlikely, but possible, because so many people are looking for problems.

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