updated 10/17/2004 4:58:28 AM ET 2004-10-17T08:58:28

Sen. John Edwards, visiting the state that narrowly put President Bush in the White House in 2000 after a disputed recount and voting irregularities, issued a warning Saturday to Floridians about Republicans.

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“We know they’re going to be up to their old tricks, right, trying to keep people from voting,” Edwards told supporters gathered at a community block party. “We’re going to make sure that people get to vote. We’re going to make sure those votes count, and here in Florida, democracy is going to decide who the next president of the United States is going to be.”

Stumping for running mate John Kerry, the North Carolina senator kicked off a five-day, 12-city tour of the state by the Democratic ticket and their wives at the suburban Miami block party. As he spoke, barefoot children bounced inside two inflatable structures, the heavily black crowd ate hot dogs, and a supporter with dreadlocks banged on bongos and blew a brass horn at key lines from Edwards’ speech.

Pivotal state
With just over two weeks before the election, the romp through Florida underscored the importance of the state that Bush won by 537 votes over Democrat Al Gore in 2000.

“We are at ground zero for where the decision will be made about who the next president of the United States will be,” Edwards said. “And, we know what’s coming, right? We know what’s coming. The Republicans are already up to it.”

The Democratic vice presidential nominee vaguely referred to a newspaper report that Gov. Jeb Bush ignored advice to scrap a flawed election voter list before it went out to county election offices in spite of a warning from leery state officials about the reliability of the data. The governor’s spokeswoman has called the allegation “absolutely false.”

Edwards also mentioned the rejection more than 10,000 voter registration forms that elections officials say were improperly filled out. That issue is now the subject of a lawsuit against Florida’s largest counties.

“Whatever it is,” Edwards promised, the Democratic Party will fight to ensure voters voices in Florida are heard.

Christine Iverson, a spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee, dismissed the charge of Republican mischief. “The Kerry-Edwards campaign and the DNC has sent out instructions to Democrats across the country to make up accusations of voter intimidation where none exist. It sounds like John Edwards is following the DNC and Kerry play book,” she said.

It was a reference to a manual that the Democratic National Committee distributed in battleground states. The manual has a section telling operatives how to combat voter intimidation, and the GOP argues that the guidelines encourage Democrats to use scare tactics. Democrats deny the charge.

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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