The ballots have yet to be counted, much less recounted. But attorneys for President Bush and John F. Kerry are already engaged in an intense legal battle for the presidency that could once again give the courts a say in who is declared the winner.
With less than two weeks to go before Election Day, an unprecedented number of lawsuits challenging basic election rules are pending in many of the battleground states. Both sides are in the final stages of training thousands of lawyers who will descend on the polls on Nov. 2 to watch for voter fraud or intimidation. Each campaign has teams of attorneys ready in the event of a recount in one or more states. Both are hitting up donors to pay the legal tabs in case there is a disputed outcome that leaves the winner in doubt after the polls close.
Four years after the election between Bush and then-Vice President Al Gore deadlocked in Florida and produced a 36-day legal whirlwind ultimately decided by the U.S. Supreme Court, courtroom battles have become as routine a part of the campaign as rallies and television ads.
The result, experts say, is a race shaping up to be the most litigious in U.S. history.