GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Sen. John Edwards (search) asked black voters to help Democrat John Kerry (search) in "this march toward justice and equality" and urged Floridians to vote early as he continued a three-day tour of their state Sunday.
"At the end of the day, whatever John and I do, it's you who can change this country by reaching out to your friends, your neighbors and your families to get them to the polls," the Democratic vice presidential nominee told a sprawling crowd of boisterous supporters on the University of Florida campus. "There's no reason to wait for November 2nd."
Election offices across Florida will open Monday to give voters the option of casting their ballots ahead of the Nov. 2 election.
In an interview with local TV affiliates in Gainesville, Edwards claimed Republicans were trying to keep "people participating to a minimum." He said, "The truth is, the more people that vote, the more likely John Kerry will be president, and the Republicans know that."
Earlier in Daytona Beach, Edwards spoke from the pulpit to a predominantly black congregation at the half-full Greater Friendship Baptist Church. "We have to rise up and make sure that our voices are heard, and that begins tomorrow," the candidate said.
Later Sunday, the North Carolina senator headed to Florida A&M University, the state's historically black public university, in Tallahassee to make the same pitch.
Democrats are looking to stave off erosion of support among a core party constituency and energize their base voters. President Bush's campaign and conservative groups have been running radio ads aimed at blacks in Florida and other states for weeks. Democrats contend the ads are meant to keep black voters away from voting booths, a charge Republicans deny.
Before the Daytona Beach congregation, Edwards tweaked his stump speech, adding references to Martin Luther King Jr., affirmative action, the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court (search) case, and Presidents Clinton and Lincoln, heroes among blacks.
"Dr. King used to say the arc of the moral universe is long but bends toward justice. The problem is there are a lot of forces fighting against justice today," Edwards said before promising Kerry would continue a "march toward justice."