WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - Clamorous confrontations between sign-waving supporters of the two leading presidential candidates, Republican George W. Bush and Democrat Al Gore, were in sharp contrast Saturday with the relaxed mood of some West Palm Beach citizens.
About 100 passionate protesters, some carrying bullhorns, others relying on the strength of their voices to broadcast their opinions, assembled half a block from the Palm Beach County Government Center, where members of the Palm Beach County Elections Board were hand-counting votes cast for presidential candidates.
The recount and protest centered around alleged election irregularities and their impact on the presidential race, the outcome of which has yet to be determined.
Some contend that the Palm Beach ballot was structured so that some voters accidentally voted for Reform Party candidate Pat Buchanan instead of Gore. There are also claims that some voters were turned away from poll sites while others were allowed to vote twice.
Gore supporters yelled, "Every vote counts," only to be countered by Bush supporters chanting, "One time." When Gore supporters changed their cry to "No more Bushit," Bush supporters responded by marching around screaming, "Sore losers."
Like many other protesters, Bush supporter Mike Moore of Clarksville, Tenn., and Gore supporter Mary Albanese of West Palm Beach tried to out-scream each other, fighting with words while clenching their fists and shaking their signs.
"I can't help if you can't understand how to read a ballot, like any fourth-grader," Moore shouted. Albanese countered, "Don't confuse that Rush Limbaugh crap with the facts."
Bush supporter Greg Demetreus of West Palm Beach, carrying a sign stating, "We punched the right hole," said he doubted some voters' allegations that the ballot was misleading. "It's funny how they couldn't find the right hole in the booth but remembered which hole they punched after they left."
Gore supporter Gary Bloom of Homestead, Fla., said Bush's declaration of victory in Florida was ridiculous. "No one has won yet," Bloom said. "The people deserve to have their vote heard. If we have to go to court, then let's go to court."
Gore supporter Sabrina Johnson of West Palm Beach also said the courts should decide if any recounts should take place. "The Elections Board has screwed this up," she said. "How can we trust them with the recount?"
But not all activists were supporting one candidate or the other.
Charisse Graves of Daytona Beach, who tried to break up the heated arguments erupting between protesters, said she was trying to build unity in the midst of chaos. "Our country has been through enough," she said. "We should go ahead and select a president."
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