Diane Watson

Ohio's Electoral Votes - Jan. 6, 2005

Diane Watson
January 06, 2005— Washington, D.C.
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I stand here with my colleague, Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones, in support of her formal objection to the certification of the state of Ohio’s electoral votes.

Voting is fundamental to the democratic process. However, as we have seen in the last two national election cycles, a number of credible election irregularities have come to light. The facts are clear that in the case of Ohio there were numerous irregularities, including the rejection of provisional ballots that resulted in the disenfranchisement of tens of thousands of voters, computer malfunctions where votes cast for Kerry were changed to votes cast for Bush, the failure to provide provisional ballots to absentee voters who did not receive their ballots in time to vote, the misallocation or underallocation of voting machines in predominately Democratic and minority districts that resulted in unacceptable voter delays, and the improper purging of voter rolls.

And this is only a partial listing of allegations of voting irregularities in the state of Ohio. In addition, there are credible allegations of voter intimidation and suppression, where, in one instance, the Ohio Republican party selectively targeted 35,000 predominately minority voters for intimidation. It is a sad fact that in every election since Reconstruction, in every election since the Voting Rights Act passed in 1965, voters – and particularly African-Americans and other minorities – have faced calculated and determined efforts to suppress their vote through intimidation.

It is a sad fact that in the new millennium not every citizen of the United States is guaranteed his or her most fundamental right to vote. The tactics are often different today, but the results are the same. Today we are not visited by the KKK but by state officials purging their voter rolls of African -Americans and other minorities who are falsely categorized as felons. Today we are not visited by poll taxes but by police officers falsely arresting and intimidating students who are exercising their constitutional right to register voters. Today we are not visited with trumped-up voter tests but state attorney generals who brazenly disqualify voters who fail to check a box on their voter registration forms. Today we are not visited by riders in the night, but by officials who boldly declare their disregard for the law by refusing to issue voters provisional ballots.

My objection is not about winners or losers in this election cycle. It’s not a Democratic or Republican issue. It’s about fairness, it’s about equal protection under the law, and the fact that allegations of voter irregularities in Ohio are serious, credible and deserve a full airing before Ohio’s electoral votes are counted. To do any less is to sully the most sacred and fundamental pillar of democracy – the right to vote.