The request sent via a letter to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Thursday said US officials wanted to avoid a contentious vote like in 2000, when the outcome was decided by Florida.

Recalling the long-drawn-out process in the southern state, nine lawmakers, including four blacks and one Hispanic, asked that the international body "ensure free and fair elections in America", according to a statement issued by Florida representative Eddie Bernice Johnson, who spearheaded the effort.

'Electoral nightmare'

"As lawmakers, we must assure the people of America that our nation will not experience the nightmare of the 2000 presidential election," she said in the letter.

"As lawmakers, we must assure the people of America that our nation will not experience the nightmare of the 2000 presidential election"

Eddie Bernice Johnson,
Congressman from Florida

"This is the first step in making sure that history does not repeat itself," she added, after requesting that the UN "deploy election observers across the United States" to monitor the
November 2004 election.

The lawmakers said in the letter that in a report released in June 2001, the US Commission on Civil Rights "found that the electoral process in Florida resulted in the denial of the right to vote for countless persons".

The bipartisan commission, they stressed, determined "that the "disenfranchisement of Florida's voters fell most harshly on the shoulders of black voters' and in poor counties". Both groups vote predominantly Democratic in US elections.

'Problems not fixed'

The commission also concluded, the lawmakers said, that "despite promised nationwide reforms (of the voting system) ... adequate steps have not been taken to ensure that a similar situation will not arise in 2004 that arose in 2000".

Thirty-six days after the 7 Novembe 2000 presidential election, after several state court interventions and vote recounts in numerous Florida counties, the US Supreme Court ruled in favour of Republican George Bush, awarding him all of Florida's 25 electoral votes.

The ruling tipped the balance against Democratic contender and then vice president Al Gore, who with 267 electoral votes lost to Bush's 271, only one more than the minimum 270 needed to clinch the presidential election.