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    November 5, 2008  

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While other Americans cast historic votes yesterday, we hit the road to check with those keeping an eye on the process. Unfortunately, starting when polls opened at 7 AM.


Simpson Thatcher antitrust associate Andy Lacy and Reed Smith products liability and life sciences specialist Steve Fowler (of the Falls Church office) played election lawyers for the day. They were part of Election Protection’s nonpartisan voter protection effort, serving as the on-the-ground force for a three-polling-station area including this locale, Woodlawn Elementary just south of Alexandria. No major issues erupted during our stay, though Steve had already corrected some misinformation from an electioneer (telling voters they needed to have a social security card). Andy dipped his toe into ADA work by helping a disabled voter get to the polls.


From there, we headed west toward Springfield, where were found Brett Coffee, center, who just won the community service award from Washington Metro Corporate Counsel Association. By day, he’s general counsel to Computer Systems Center, Inc., but on the side, he and his wife founded the SemperComm Foundation, which gives troops in remote areas the means to communicate with loved ones in the States. Brett was palling around with Rotary Club friends Bob Hamlin and Kelly Perdue (distant relation to the poultry magnate, but not close enough to share the profits: “I just eat the chicken,” Kelly says). This was a partisan team out in support of the GOP. Rough day for the red team, but Brett’s just gearing up for ’09, when he’ll be on the ballot for Virginia’s House of Delegates.


As evening settled, we returned to the Newseum for an international perspective. On the right is Jean-Pierre Kingsley, CEO of the International Foundation for Electoral Systems, which brought over 100 foreign dignitaries and executives from 40 countries to check out the U.S. electoral process. (Warning: it’s messy!) With him, Randy Teague of Vorys (also general counsel for IFES) and Randy’s daughter Mary Robb. Mary is VP at bi-partisan Campaign Financial Services, which handles campaign finance compliance and financial consulting for 20 Members of Congress. A year and a half ago, Jean-Pierre was head of Elections Canada.


Here’s Jean-Pierre with a host of IFES staffers plus Fatima Asrar of the Embassy of Yemen (gold dress) and Fatina Salaheddine, CEO of Al-Sahafa, Ohio’s Arab-American newspaper (second from right). We had her teach us how to say “battleground.”


As a blue wave swept the screen behind him, we chatted up Gerard Stoudmann, member of the IFES Board of Directors who recently did duty as U.N. representative for elections in the Ivory Coast. He’s also a roving Swiss Ambassador to Francophone Africa and in 2002, headed up an international delegation through Europe’s Organization for Security and Cooperation that Gerard tells us was the first to be invited to observe U.S. elections. His recommendations for the U.S.: get uniform Federal rules on ID requirements and registration. With him:  Conny McCormack (IFES election consultant and veteran L.A. election official) and husband of 25 years Austin.


Two ambassadors in one shot here. From left, IFES’s Pam Tsufis, Ambassador H.E. Denis Antoine of Grenada, Elizabeth Dvorak, IFES’s Carlos Hinojosa, and Ambassador Cornelius Smith of the Bahamas. Elizabeth has done six tours of duty in Afghanistan for a U.S.A.I.D. contractor and is just back from an anti-narcotics assignment in Kabul. We’re trying to figure out a follow-up assignment to interview Cornelius back in his own country.

John Ford is Bisnow’s Legal Editor and Ambassador-in-waiting for your best story ideas: john@bisnow.com.  

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