"READY TO TRAVEL, READY TO SUE." Guardedly optimistic news from the land of voter suppression. Here in southwest Ohio�s 2nd congressional district, where late polls showed Democrat Victoria Wulsin with a narrow lead over incumbent �Mean Jean� Schmidt, voting seems to be going fairly smoothly. �It�s going much better than could�ve been expected,� said Michelle Young, part of a bipartisan team of attorneys doing election protection work in heavily Republican Warren and Clermont counties outside of Cincinnati. Both counties have given Democrats jitters in the past.

In the 2004 election, just after the polls closed, the board of elections in Warren County -- which Bush carried by 42,000 votes -- locked out the media and observers, saying that the FBI had warned of a terrorist threat. The FBI later said it issued no such warning. In the 2005 special congressional election won by Schmidt, her home county of Clermont was the last one in the district to report its results. The Clermont ballots provided her margin of victory over Democrat Paul Hackett.

There have been no credible charges of ballot fraud in either case, but Young�s group, which was assembled in recent weeks and calls itself Lawyers for the Protection of Voters� Rights, said they want to ensure there is no controversy in this year�s race. Emily�s List has also sent an election protection coordinator to work in the 2nd district. In the past, Democrats have had strong election protection teams in Cincinnati�s Hamilton County, but they�ve had virtually no oversight in Clermont and Warren. So far, Young said, things have been relatively quiet, �but we�re ready to travel, ready to sue.�

--Jim McNeill