- The Washington Times - Monday, March 8, 2004

HOLLYWOOD, Fla. (AP) — John Kerry is determined not to lose Florida’s 27 electoral votes in a swamp of recounts and recriminations this fall, vowing to mount an early legal challenge in any district that might repeat the problems that bedeviled Democratic supporters in 2000.

“Not only do we want a record level of turnout to vote, we want to guarantee that every vote is counted,” the presumptive Democratic nominee told about 500 people at a town hall meeting yesterday.

Mr. Kerry rarely mentions the legal battle over the 2000 election while campaigning, but he did so repeatedly in the state that was the epicenter four years ago. Responding to a voter who asked, “What can you do to prevent them from stealing the election again?” Mr. Kerry said his campaign was assembling a legal team to examine districts that had problems.

“We’re going to pre-check it. We’re going to have the legal team in place. … We’re going to take injunctions where necessary ahead of time. We’ll pre-challenge if necessary,” the four-term Massachusetts senator said.

The 2000 recount looms large in nearly any political discourse in Florida. George W. Bush won the presidency by five electoral votes when a 5-4 decision by the Supreme Court ended a partial recount in the state. Mr. Bush spent millions of dollars fighting Al Gore’s effort to have some votes recounted, a legal battle that lasted for 36 days.

Mr. Bush won Florida’s 25 electoral votes by a 537-vote margin. This year, an additional two electoral votes are at stake.

Worries are already being raised about changes in Florida’s voting methods since the disputed election. Mr. Kerry said he wants to be sure there is no chance of foul play.

Mr. Kerry’s fund raising increased since he locked up the nomination last Tuesday. His campaign said it raised roughly $6 million over the Internet, including more than $1 million a day for three straight days.

Florida and three other states — Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas — today select a total of 465 delegates to the Democratic National Convention. As Mr. Kerry visited three Florida cities to encourage people to vote in the primary, he contended that Mr. Bush has learned none of the lessons of the 2000 election. Mr. Bush has shut out Democrats, he said, and has acted as if the razor-thin win was a mandate.

Campaigning in a state in which 17.6 percent of its population is 65 and older — the highest concentration of elderly in the nation — Mr. Kerry accused Bush of breaking promises to senior citizens and called the Medicare prescription-drug entitlement approved by Congress a billion-dollar giveaway to drug companies.

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