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Heading Off Electile Dysfunction

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In New Mexico, lawsuits are flying over Ralph Nader getting booted off the ballot. In Missouri, Democrats are suing the state over the locations of early-voting stations. And in Florida, you can't swing a hanging chad without hitting an election attorney who's filing suit over touch-screen voting machines or disqualified voter-registration forms. Public confidence in the integrity of the upcoming election is so low that 13 members of Congress sent a letter to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan asking for international observers to keep an eye on things.

While Vermont has managed to stay above the fray, federal officials here aren't leaving anything to chance. On Election Day, the U.S. attorney's office in Burlington says it will field phone calls from any concerned voters who want to report incidents of election fraud or voting-rights abuses, such as paying voters to vote, tampering with ballots or tallying machines, stuffing ballot boxes or physically intimidating voters.

The program is part of a nationwide effort set up by the Justice Department to make voting easier and cheating harder. Actually, this kind of thing isn't new -- Assistant U.S. Attorney John Conroy says he's been doing it in Vermont since 1988 and has never had to make an investigation into voter fraud. Nevertheless, Conroy says he'll be open for business late on November 2, just in case.

To file an election complaint, contact the U.S. Attorney's office at 951-6725.

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