For at least six years, Milwaukee and Racine public schools have participated in get-out-the-vote campaigns that send dozens of middle and high school students to ring doorbells and make phone calls that urge citizens to register and to vote. The students concentrate on low-registration neighborhoods -- mostly in inner cities.
Students are instructed not to wear partisan buttons and not to voice support for any candidate. But a spokesman for the state GOP noted that the students work in cities where voters tend to be Democratic and that the organization running it -- the Wisconsin Citizens Action Fund -- is a nonpolitical offshoot of a group that has endorsed the Democratic presidential nominee, Sen. John F. Kerry.
Larry Marx, executive director of the Wisconsin Citizen Action Fund, said the school program has existed for six years with little controversy. "I don't understand how people can be against registering" new voters, Marx said. He suggested that perhaps Republicans believed they could no longer compete with the Democrats for inner-city voters and so opposed efforts to register them.
Citizens can register to vote in Wisconsin up to Election Day if they provide identification and proof of residency. The Republican Party here has begun researching the backgrounds of new voters in Milwaukee and Racine, charging that the potential exists for fraud.
-- Michael Powell
Pa. Suit Over Military Ballots
The families of two Pennsylvania servicemen filed a lawsuit Wednesday asking a federal court judge to force Gov. Edward G. Rendell (D) to extend the deadline two weeks beyond Tuesday for counting absentee ballots from personnel serving overseas.
Aided by attorneys volunteering for the state GOP, the families complained that absentee ballots were sent late, which means it is unlikely they will reach county election officials by the deadline Tuesday, said Josh Wilson, political director for the Republican State Committee.
Pennsylvania has 65,000 active-duty service personnel and 4,100 reservists; an estimated 20,000 are posted overseas. Military personnel have historically favored Republicans, and GOP leaders say mishaps with overseas ballots are an attempt by Democrats such as Rendell to disenfranchise those voters.
Rendell, who is named as a defendant, said 65 of the state's 67 counties signed affidavits that they had met the Sept. 20 deadline. The two other counties shipped ballots via Express Mail and included prepaid Express Mail envelopes, which Rendell said should ensure military votes arrive by Election Day.
-- Ceci Connolly
Absentee Ballots Missing in Fla.
Election officials in Broward County, Florida's second most populous county, say as many as 58,000 absentee ballots -- half the absentee ballots requested -- were not delivered to voters after being dropped off at the post office. Angry and confused voters have inundated the county election office with phone calls. Many are opting to participate in early voting instead of voting absentee, meaning the county will have to cross-check records to make sure they are not voting twice.
"Anytime you bring up another issue that is part of the electoral process, it is just one more factor to have voters question the election process," said Gisele Sala, a spokeswoman for the Broward elections supervisor. "Certainly, this is not a good situation."
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement said late Wednesday that there is no evidence of criminal wrongdoing. But passions remain high, and may get higher. "Fahrenheit 9/11" director Michael Moore plans to protest the missing ballots in Fort Lauderdale on Thursday.
-- Manuel Roig-Franzia