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Campaigns muster lawyers in case election is contested

Early voting was held in Columbus, Ohio, on Tuesday. The hurricane may hamper voting in several swing states.

ERIC THAYER/REUTERS

Early voting was held in Columbus, Ohio, on Tuesday. The hurricane may hamper voting in several swing states.

WASHINGTON — Thousands of attorneys, representing the two major presidential candidates, their parties, unions, civil rights groups and voter-fraud watchdogs, are in place across the country, poised to challenge election results that may be called into question by machine failures, voter suppression or other allegations of illegal activity.

Election litigation has become an institutionalized part of campaigns since the 2000 presidential race, when Vice President Al Gore won the popular vote but Texas Governor George W. Bush captured Florida’s 29 electoral votes — and the White House — after 36 days of lawsuits, recounts and court actions. The volume of court fights triggered by contests up and down the ballot has doubled in the past 12 years, said Richard Hasen, a professor at the University of California at Irvine.

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‘‘Election law has become a part of the candidates’ political strategy,’’ said Hasen, the author of a new book, ‘‘The Voting Wars.’’

The legal calculus has a new variable this year: Hurricane Sandy. The storm has hampered early voting and created concern that those in ravaged areas may have difficulty getting to the polls next Tuesday. ‘‘If there are lingering problems, lack of power, impassable streets, closed polling places — all of those things could lead to litigation just before or on Election Day,’’ Hasen said.

With many polls — both nationally and in battleground states — showing a statistical dead heat between President Obama and Republican Mitt Romney, the two sides are putting unprecedented energy into lawyering up.

Also contributing to the litigious environment is the heightened level of distrust and skepticism about the election process that grew from the 2000 recount, specialists say. Magnified and multiplied by the power of social media, those popular suspicions also could drive challenges to the election results.

Both campaigns have legal staffs that have been war-gaming the legal possibilities. Obama’s effort is headed by former White House counsel Robert Bauer; Romney’s legal team is run by Ben Ginsberg, chief legal counsel for Bush’s 2000 and 2004 campaigns. The Obama and Romney operations declined to discuss the specifics of legal strategies on the record. But they indicated that they are ready for contingencies on Election Day and should the race go into ‘‘overtime.’’

Groups allied with the campaigns say they have been recruiting and training lawyers. Barbara Arnwine, president and executive director of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights, said that Election Protection, a coalition of voting rights groups, will draw on thousands of volunteers. — WASHINGTON POST

Ad war over auto industry rolls on

WASHINGTON — The ad fight continues in Ohio over competing contentions concerning the auto industry, with Republican nominee Mitt Romney doubling down Tuesday with a new radio spot insinuating that the 2009 bailout caused the industry to ship jobs to China.

Romney, whose father once headed American Motors Corp., says he would stand up for the auto industry — “in Ohio, not China” — because he grew up in the industry. The ad accuses Obama of championing policies that resulted in the off-shoring of American jobs. The problem that the Republican nominee faces is that the $80 billion government bailout for Chrysler and General Motors helped save auto jobs in northern Ohio, industry analysts have repeatedly said. And while Chrysler is restarting its China operations for its Chinese market, it will not be moving Jeep production from the United States to China, as the Romney ad implies, the company reiterated Tuesday.

Chrysler chief executive Sergio Marchionne sent an e-mail to employees Monday setting the record straight because, Marchionne wrote, its Jeep production plans have become the focus of public debate. He did not mention Romney by name.

“I feel obliged to unambiguously restate our position: Jeep production will not be moved from the United States to China,” Marchionne said.

Instead, he said, the company is investing more than $1.7 billion to develop and produce Jeeps in the United States — including $500 million directly to expand its Toledo assembly plant and to hire 1,100 additional workers by 2013. The Wrangler nameplate produced in Toledo will never see full production outside the United States, Marchionne said.

“Jeep assembly lines will remain in operation in the United States and will constitute the backbone of the brand,” he said. “It is inaccurate to suggest anything different.” — TRACY JAN

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