Dirty tricks taint presidential election

AS the Republicans try desperately to counter the surge in Barack Obama's support for today's US presidential election, the contest has entered a vicious dirty tricks phase.

Graham Dines

AS the Republicans try desperately to counter the surge in Barack Obama's support for today's US presidential election, the contest has entered a vicious dirty tricks phase.

The Obama campaign and civil rights advocacy groups have signed up millions of new voters for this presidential race. In Ohio alone, some 600,000 have submitted new voter registration cards. Across the country, many of these first-time voters are young and strong Obama supporters. Many are also black and Hispanic.

Activist groups say it is this fresh crop of ballot-minded citizens that makes some Republicans very nervous. And they say they expect the dirty tricks to get dirtier in the final hours, especially in battleground states like Pennsylvania, Virginia and New Mexico.

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In the hotly contested state of Pennsylvania, leaflets have been taped to picnic benches at Drexel University, warning students that police would be at the polls on Tuesday to arrest would-be voters with prior criminal offences.

Emails have circulated in the state linking Barack Obama to the Holocaust. “Jewish Americans cannot afford to make the wrong decision on Tuesday, Nov. 4,” said the electronic message, paid for by an entity calling itself the Republican Federal Committee. “Many of our ancestors ignored the warning signs in the 1930s and 1940s and made a tragic mistake.”

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IN Pennsylvania's largest city Philadelphia, predominantly African-American neighbourhoods have been leafleted, warning voters they could be arrested at the polls if they had unpaid parking tickets or if they had criminal convictions.

Meanwhile in Nevada, Latino voters said they had received calls from people describing themselves as Obama volunteers, urging them to cast their ballot over the phone.

In New Mexico, two Hispanic women filed a lawsuit last week claiming they were harassed by a private investigator working for a Republican lawyer who came to their homes and threatened to call immigration authorities, even though they are US citizens.

Over the weekend in Virginia, bogus leaflets with an authentic-looking seal said fears of high voter turnout had prompted election officials to hold two elections - one on Tuesday for Republicans, the correct day, and another on Wednesday for Democrats, which would be after election.

I like to think that John McCain would neither sanction nor approve such tactics. But with power slipping from the grasp of the Republican Party, it's desperation time and racism is raising its ugly head.

At the weekend, California's governor Arnold Schwarzenegger came out fighting for McCain while Obama belittled himself by sharing a platform with the disgraced Bill Clinton. Neither event is likely to make any difference.

Today's election is said to be too close to call in a number of states, but the probability is that the most populous states - New York, California, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Michigan - will vote heavily for Obama, putting him within sight of the finishing line.

And if early returns indicate McCain is losing in Virginia, West Virginia, Florida, and Ohio, then the game will be up for the Republicans.

That a man from the same party as George W. Bush did appear in September to have a chance of winning is testament to McCain's record as a war hero and a distinguished Senate career.

But is seems that destiny has indeed sided with Barack Obama.

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