BOSTON – The memories of the dimpled chads in Florida just won't go away.
As Democrats try to focus on the future during their national convention, only a win by John Kerry (search) will make the bad memories of the Florida recount (search) in 2000 go away, says Roberto Alonzo, a delegate and Texas state representative.
"I think it's still a lingering doubt that you can't forget," he said Tuesday. Alonzo is one of the 50 Texas House Democrats who last year fled the state to avoid a vote on a Republican-led congressional redistricting effort.
"It has a lot of motivation. It's my opinion that what happened in Florida was illegal, a crime," Alonzo said.
Al Sharpton fired up crowds at meetings of black and Hispanic delegates when he referred to the disputed Florida recount that decided the presidential race in favor of President Bush four years ago.
And the man Bush beat, Al Gore, alluded to the recount in his speech before convention-goers on Monday. "I didn't come here to talk about the past. After all, I don't want you to think I lie awake at night counting and recounting sheep," the former vice president said.
Harvey Sootin, a retired teacher from Miami, has firsthand experience with the 2000 controversy: He was a Democratic recount observer in Dade County, Fla.
"Gore won it, he won it in Florida," said Sootin, 78, who is attending the convention as a member of the Democratic National Committee's (search) senior coalition. "To me, dirty tricks is (the Republicans') middle name."
Recounts in some Florida counties went on for 36 days, until they were stopped by the U.S. Supreme Court, handing Bush a 537-vote victory in the state and enough electoral votes to win the presidency.
One of the lingering images of the recount was that of election officials closely inspecting dimpled or hanging chads on paper ballots.
Not everyone at the convention in Boston is bitter, though.
"I never looked at Florida as an issue. The issue was the management of the Gore campaign, which was not run properly," said Janice Davis, 53, a delegate from Gore's home state of Tennessee.
"The chads finished it off, but the Gore campaign had some issues before it got to Florida," she said.
Texas delegate Earlie Davis, 72, of Dallas, says she's confident that the Florida voting will be fair this year.
"You don't make the same mistake twice," she said.
Eugene Callendar, 79, a New York delegate isn't as convinced. He says memories of Florida won't be a prime election issue, though it will remain a powerful motivation, especially for blacks.
"Blacks are very angry, and that has rubbed off a little bit on the whole Democratic machine," he said.