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Posted: 10/25/2004 10:09:25 AM EST
[Last Edit: 10/25/2004 10:10:17 AM EST by Da_Bunny]
Democrat thugs

By Brittany Wallman
Staff Writer

October 23, 2004

On Election Day, voters will be protected from campaign pressures by a 50-foot cone, an invisible barrier that campaign workers cannot breach. Not so for early voters.

While the Voter's Bill of Rights in state law says they have a right to "vote free from coercion or intimidation by elections officers or any other person," a glitch in the newer early voting law does not include the same 50-foot guarantee.

As a result, with early voting taking place in busy public places like City Halls and libraries, voters are voicing complaints of being blocked by political mobs, or being singled out for their political views. Others say they have been grabbed, screamed at and cursed by political partisans of all stripes.

Republican Rep. Tom Feeney of Oviedo said the antagonizers are "Kerry thugs" out to harass Bush voters.

"If you ask me whether I believe there is an organized effort to intimidate Republican voters, the answer is absolutely yes," said Feeney.

The Republican Party is calling on the secretary of state's office for help, asking that early voting rules be clarified.

The secretary of state's office has not yet responded.

"Significant numbers of people have already been deterred from voting," wrote Republican Party Chairwoman Carole Jean Jordan to Secretary of State Glenda Hood, "and this will continue until corrective measures are taken."

Democratic Party officials in Tallahassee said they've had some complaints, too.

"We have had incidents as well," said Christine Anderson, spokeswoman for the Kerry campaign. "We've had quite a few."

She said the party hasn't taken affidavits from voters and found it shocking the Republicans were so focused on the issue rather than working to make sure people can vote.

"It's just absurd they would try to accuse us of intimidation efforts," said Anderson.

Permits in Palm Beach County show that the SEIU union and other Democratic groups have been holding rallies at early voting locations, where they have a captive audience of voters standing in line. Elections Supervisor Theresa LePore said the lines are long because voters are brought in by the busload.

"Special interest groups are trying to whip everybody into a frenzy and get everybody upset," she said. "Campaigns and their observers are confronting the workers and the voters. Things have gotten nasty and ugly."

LePore said the county has an ordinance that forbids interference in county business in the building and they are citing that law to the campaigners. Her attorney has told her that an area at each polling place can be set aside for solicitation so she planned to do so.

LePore said campaign workers followed voters into polling places and handed out literature next to the voting machines. Other voters standing in line were told the machines don't work and that they should vote absentee.

Gisela Salas, deputy elections supervisor in Broward County, said even though early voting "doesn't have that voter solicitation rule, so to speak," her office has posted signs saying "no campaigning beyond this point" and have had cooperation for the most part. Still, there were complaints in Broward.

Florida Senate Minority Leader Ron Klein, D-Boca Raton, one of the co-sponsors of the early voting law, said it's a shame that everything must be spelled out.

"I wish people would use common sense in terms of how they approached these things," said Klein. "It's a new law. Certainly there's a few things we need to go back in the legislation and fix. We are going to have to go back and put more specific rules in about how early voting should work."

State Rep. Irv Slosberg, a Democrat from Boca Raton, said he wasn't happy with the early voting, either, because the rules changed daily.

"Someone from the elections office has to come out rather than relying on the county library to make these decisions," said Slosberg. "That's what's happening. It's up to the library people. ... Every day's a new game."

Republican Party senior adviser Mindy Tucker Fletcher said she had more than a dozen affidavits from voters around the state that would be forwarded to Hood's office.

According to the affidavits Fletcher released:

One woman who voted early in Boca Raton, at the Southwest County Regional Library, complained that as she stood in line, two men behind her were "trashing our president," Fletcher said, declining to identify the woman. She tried to ignore them. Then the man touched her arm and said, "Who are you voting for?"

"I said, `I don't think that's an appropriate question,'" the woman said she responded.

"Uh oh! We have a Bush supporter here," screamed the man behind her.

For the 2 1/2 hours she had to wait in line, she was heckled by the man. As they neared the voting room, someone in the rear of the line yelled, "I sure hope everyone here is voting for Kerry!" she reported.

That's when the man behind her held his hand over her head and screamed, "We have a Republican right here!" There were "boos and jeers" from the crowd.

"I felt intimidated, harassed and threatened!" the woman wrote in her complaint to the Republican Party.

Elaine Fandino complained to the Republican Party that she took her mother to vote on South Military Trail in Palm Beach County and was confronted by 25 people supporting John Kerry for president. The crowd was "very angry and used foul language," she reported. She said the man next to her said, "Where's my shotgun?"

In Broward County, at the regional library in Pembroke Pines, a voter complained that Kerry supporters used abusive language about President Bush and had signs and banners within 50 feet of the entrance.

Kerry supporters were "shoving anti-Bush propaganda at us," complained the voter, who said he shouted back "Vote President Bush!"

A woman who voted in Plantation at the West Regional Courthouse said she was offended to see five or six people with "huge stick on badges" for Kerry/Edwards, standing near the voting machines.

"Never in all the years of voting do we remember being allowed to show a badge or poster or literature while inside the area where the voters are standing ready to cast their vote," she wrote.

Juan D'Arce of Miami complained to the Republicans that he tried early voting in downtown Miami. He was wearing a Bush pin, but he couldn't stand the taunting, so he turned away and did not vote.

Howard Sherman complained about his voting experience at North Shore Branch Library in Miami-Dade County. He found a crowd of Kerry supporters blocking the door.

"They were positioned directly in front of the entrance to the library in such a manner that it would be impossible to avoid them while entering the polling place," he reported.

Sherman said he tried to slip through the thinnest part of the crowd, but a woman in a Kerry T-shirt grabbed his arm and asked if he was voting for Kerry.

"I seem to recall from civics class that this sort of electioneering is illegal," Sherman complained to the Republicans.

Republican Lawrence Gottfried, who became a poll watcher in Delray Beach after what he thought was inappropriate behavior at the polls, said the things he saw upset him.

Gottfried said that while working at the Delray poll, actor Danny DeVito and his wife, actress Rhea Perlman, showed up. Gottfried is a fan, but he didn't ask for an autograph.

"I said, `Look Mr. DeVito, I'm a big fan of yours and Rhea's, but you are blocking the entrance. You're campaigning, you've got a Kerry-Edwards button on, and it's not appropriate."

Gottfried, who used to be a Democrat, said the things he saw were "ridiculous."

"There is a time for partisanship and it's OK to have a different point of view, but don't violate the sanctity of the polling area," he said.
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