Friday, January 07, 2005

Boxer Rebellion

After a short Winter hiatus -- and a last-minute pro bono project -- thegoodseed returns to work. Starting this weekend, we're back online with commentary about this week's showdown in Congress regarding the integrity of 2004 Ohio vote. We assisted a group of California civic leaders in urging Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Calif) to support the Congressional Black Caucus's challenge to the Ohio vote. According to the U.S. Code, only one vote from each House is required for a formal Congressional challenge, and Senator Boxer's lone vote from the Senate completed the test. We thank Senator Boxer for her courage, and for shining a bright light on an electoral process that can be much improved for the benefit of all voters, Democrats and Republicans alike.

Here's a transcript of her statement to the Senate:

For most of us in the Senate and the House, we have spent our lives fighting for things we believe in - always fighting to make our nation better.

We have fought for social justice. We have fought for economic justice. We have fought for environmental justice. We have fought for criminal justice.

Now we must add a new fight - the fight for electoral justice.

Every citizen of this country who is registered to vote should be guaranteed that their vote matters, that their vote is counted, and that in the voting booth of their community, their vote has as much weight as the vote of any Senator, any Congressperson, any President, any cabinet member, or any CEO of any Fortune 500 Corporation.I am sure that every one of my colleagues - Democrat, Republican, and Independent - agrees with that statement. That in the voting booth, every one is equal.

So now it seems to me that under the Constitution of the United States, which guarantees the right to vote, we must ask:

Why did voters in Ohio wait hours in the rain to vote?

Why were voters at Kenyan College, for example, made to wait in line until nearly 4 a.m. to vote because there were only two machines for 1300 voters?

Why did poor and predominantly African-American communities have disproportionately long waits?

Why in Franklin County did election officials only use 2,798 machines when they said they needed 5,000?

Why did they hold back 68 machines in warehouses?

Why were 42 of those machines in predominantly African-American districts?

Why did, in Columbus area alone, an estimated 5,000 to 10,000 voters leave polling places, out of frustration, without having voted? How many more never bothered to vote after they heard about this?

Why is it when 638 people voted at a precinct in Franklin County, a voting machine awarded 4,258 extra votes to George Bush. Thankfully, they fixed it - but how many other votes did the computers get wrong?

Why did Franklin County officials reduce the number of electronic voting machines in downtown precincts, while adding them in the suburbs? This also led to long lines.In Cleveland, why were there thousands of provisional ballots disqualified after poll workers gave faulty instructions to voters?

Because of this, and voting irregularities in so many other places, I am joining with Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones to cast the light of truth on a flawed system which must be fixed now.

Our democracy is the centerpiece of who we are as a nation. And it is the fondest hope of all Americans that we can help bring democracy to every corner of the world.

As we try to do that, and as we are shedding the blood of our military to this end, we must realize that we lose so much credibility when our own electoral system needs so much improvement.

Yet, in the past four years, this Congress has not done everything it should to give confidence to all of our people their votes matter.

After passing the Help America Vote Act, nothing more was done.A year ago, Senators Graham, Clinton and I introduced legislation that would have required that electronic voting systems provide a paper record to verify a vote. That paper trail would be stored in a secure ballot box and invaluable in case of a recount.

There is no reason why the Senate should not have taken up and passed that bill. At the very least, a hearing should have been held. But it never happened.

Before I close, I want to thank my colleague from the House, Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones.Her letter to me asking for my intervention was substantive and compelling. As I wrote to her, I was particularly moved by her point that it is virtually impossible to get official House consideration of the whole issue of election reform, including these irregularities. The Congresswoman has tremendous respect in her state of Ohio, which is at the center of this fight. Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones was a judge for 10 years. She was a prosecutor for 8 years. She was inducted into the Women's Hall of Fame in 2002.

I am proud to stand with her in filing this objection.

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