I found Jo Becker's Oct. 20 front-page article, "Legal Battle for Presidency Underway," chilling. With thousands of lawyers poised to engage in court challenges over any alleged voting irregularity, regardless of merit, a constitutional crisis arising from this year's presidential election seems almost certain.

The avalanche of cases will choke the judiciary. Complicating the process will be the specter of additional court battles related to slates of electors competing with those submitted to Congress by state legislatures. Congress is constitutionally required to determine and certify which slate is legitimate and to count its votes.

All this could result in no electoral victor by Inauguration Day. In that event, Congress is constitutionally required to select an acting president to serve in the interim. The disgraceful legal proceedings in Florida about butterfly ballots, hanging chads, dimpled punchcards, etc., in 2000 could seem like child's play by comparison.

Any time 100 million people vote, errors and problems will arise, but that doesn't mean the election outcome is invalid. Only in the most egregious cases might the outcome be worthy of being contested. So, how can our political parties and their adherents promote actions that could cause an election crisis and cripple or even destroy the electoral viability of our constitutional republic?

Even Richard Nixon, everyone's favorite political scoundrel, refused to contest clearly fraudulent voting in Illinois in the 1960 presidential election because he feared a constitutional crisis.

RICHARD V. SHANKLIN

McLean