Last-Minute Campaigning Features Dirty Tricks, Court Challenge

Last-minute campaigning in the Mid-Atlantic region in the wake of a long hard-fought presidential election campaign has apparently included some dirty tricks, even as pundits predict an easy win for Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., in the D.C.-Maryland-Virginia area. In Virginia, the most heavily contested state in the area, a federal judge denied a court challenge to the state’s election procedures.

On Monday, a federal judge denied a motion brought by the NAACP against the state of Virginia to increase the number of voting machines and to allow paper ballots in African-American communities, the AP reported. The lawsuit also called for longer voting hours.

In the battleground state, where 13 electoral votes are up for grabs, the Virginia chapter of the NAACP contended that the state is inadequately prepared to handle the record number of voters expected to cast ballots on Tuesday.

U.S. District Judge Richard Williams denied the motion after only hearing arguments from the plaintiff’s attorneys. The AP reported that Judge Richard Williams ordered the state’s Board of Elections to publicize the availability of curbside voting for older or disabled voters and the right of people in line by 7 p.m., when the polls close, to be allowed to vote.

Virginia’s State Board of Elections released a statement on its Web site warning voters against a flyer supposedly issued by the Board of Elections that claimed Democrats should vote on Nov. 5. Nov. 4 is the correct date for all voters, regardless of party affiliation.

“A fake flyer claiming it is from the State Board of Elections has been circulating, stating that Republican Party supporters shall vote on Nov. 4 and Democratic Party supporters shall vote on Nov. 5,” the board’s statement said.

According to the statement, the flyer was circulated in Hampton, Newport News, Virginia Beach and Norfolk.

In a similar incident, thousands of George Mason University students received an email also informing them to vote on Nov. 5, Politico.com reported.

Reportedly, a hacker broke into the email list of the school’s provost, Peter Stearns, and sent a brief 24-word email misinforming the student body that the election has been moved to the day following the actual election day.

Upon discovering that his email was hacked Stearns immediately emailed a follow-up message that notified the university community that the email was a hoax and explained what happened before reminding them that Election Day was still Nov. 4.

In another legal challenge, the AP is reporting that McCain’s presidential campaign is suing Virginia electoral board to extend the absentee ballot deadline for military voters. The McCain campaign wants the deadline extended to Nov. 14 because they contend that absentee ballots for military voters received were mailed too late. Obama is slightly ahead in the polls in Virginia. If the Illinois senator carries the state’s 13 electoral votes, he would become the first Democrat to do so in 44 years.