SARASOTA, Florida - Arguments about ballot design, machine error, statistical probabilities and the like don't sway Bertie Lou Gentile, one of more than 500 people packing Bayfront Park on Sunday calling for a revote in the 13th Congressional District race.
The 77-year-old Nokomis resident has a simple reason for believing that 18,000 people didn't all intentionally skip the congressional race Nov. 7.
"When you get more votes for the hospital board, you know something's wrong," Gentile said.
She was referring to election results showing that fewer people voted in the congressional race between Republican Vern Buchanan and Democrat Christine Jennings than in the race for a county hospital board seat.
Gentile and her husband, Don, didn't fit the profile of the "hundreds of outsiders" that the Buchanan campaign said in a press release Saturday would be bused in by liberal special interest groups.
Several groups, though, did bring members to the rally, including People for the American Way, Common Cause and Voter Action, which has filed suit in Tallahassee for a revote. Grass-roots groups from Pinellas County and Miami, which are lobbying for an end to touch-screen voting in their locales, also brought members. But there were also many local Democrats attending the rally.
"We want hope! Give us the revote!" thundered the Rev. Charles McKenzie, the Florida coordinator for the RainbowPUSH Coalition.
The crowd at Bayfront Park joined in -- "Give us the revote!" -- as McKenzie chanted the phrase.
"We cannot stand idly by while 18,000 citizens are victims of massive disenfranchisement," he said.
Rally-goers sported buttons calling for "Paper not Vapor," and waved signs reading, "Honk for a revote," "Revote to Revive our Trust," and "Touch my screen, no one will ever know."
The rally was advertised in 300,000 e-mails to Common Cause members, who can respond and get photos and comments from the demonstration, Chellie Pingree, president of the national group, told the audience.
"What you do today makes a huge difference," Pingree said. "We are here to stand behind you to call for a revote."
Jennings has filed suit asking for a revote or to have the election overturned and for the court to declare her the winner. In a court filing, Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Charles Stewart said the odds were 5 million to one against such a large undervote occurring by chance.
The Buchanan campaign, though, argues that there is no evidence that electronic voting machines malfunctioned.
While the contested congressional race provided the spark for the rally, Jennings and Buchanan were infrequently mentioned by speakers, who focused on what they called the unreliability of voting systems that don't provide a voter-verified paper ballot.
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