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(From Canberra Times)
N O NEED to wonder if this year's US presidential election is headed for another meltdown: the meltdown has already started. The voting machines have already begun to break down, accusations of systematic voter suppression and fraud are rampant, and lawyers fully armed and ready with an intimate knowledge of the nation's Byzantine election laws have flocked to court to cry foul in half a dozen states.
Eight days out from election day, we don't yet know whether the state- by-state arithmetic will lead to a post-election stalemate similar to the 36-day battle for Florida in 2000. It is, of course, possible that the margins of victory in the 50 states will be wide enough to avert the worst - even if overall conditions are likely to fall short of the usual definition of a free and fair election.
Given the nail-bitingly close numbers in the opinion polls, however, Election 2004 could just as easily produce a concatenation of knockdown, drag-out fights in several states at once, making the debacle in Florida four years ago look, in retrospect, like the constitutional equivalent of a church tea party.