OBJECTION TO COUNTING OF OHIO ELECTORAL VOTES -- (Senate - January 06, 2005)
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Mr. OBAMA. Mr. President, I did not anticipate speaking today, but the importance of this issue is enough for me to address this body.
During the election, I had the occasion of meeting a woman who had supported me in my campaign. She decided to come to shake my hand and take a photograph. She is a wonderful woman. She was not asking for anything. I was very grateful that she took time to come by. It was an unexceptional moment except for the fact that she was born in 1894. Her name is Marguerite Lewis, an African-American woman who had been born in Louisiana, born in the shadow of slavery, born at a time when lynchings were commonplace, born at a time when African Americans and women could not vote. Yet, over the course of decades she had participated in broadening our democracy and ensuring that, in fact, at some point, if not herself, then her children, her grandchildren, and her great-grandchildren would be in a position in which they could, too, call themselves citizens of the United States and make certain that this Government works not just on behalf of the mighty and the powerful but also on behalf of people like her.
So the fact that she voted and her vote was counted in this election was of supreme importance to her and it is the memory of talking to her and shaking her hand that causes me to rise on this occasion.
I am absolutely convinced that the President of the United States, George Bush, won this election. I also believe he got more votes in Ohio. As has already been said by some of the speakers in this body, this is not an issue in which we are challenging the outcome of the election. It is important for us to separate the issue of the election outcome with the election process.
I was not in this body 4 years ago, but what I observed as a voter and as a citizen of Illinois 4 years ago was troubling evidence of the fact that not every vote was being counted. It is unfortunate that 4 years later we continue to see circumstances in which people who believe they have the right to vote, who show up at the polls, still continue to confront the sort of problems that have been documented as taking place not just in Ohio but places all across the country.
I strongly urge that this Chamber, as well as the House of Representatives, take it upon itself once and for all to reform this system.
There is no reason, at a time when we have enormous battles taking place ideologically all across the globe, at a time when we try to make certain we encourage democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan and other places throughout the world, that we have the legitimacy of our elections challenged--rightly or wrongly--by people who are not certain as to whether our processes are fair and just.
This is something we can fix. We have experts on both sides of the aisle who know how to fix it. What we have lacked is the political will.
I strongly urge that, in a circumstance in which too many voters have stood in long lines for hours, in which too many voters have cast votes on machines that jam or malfunction or suck the votes without a trace, in which too many voters try to register to vote only to discover that their names don't appear on the roles or that partisan political interests and those that serve them have worked hard to throw up every barrier to recognize them as lawful, in which too many voters will know that there are different elections for different parts of the country and that these differences turn shamefully on differences of wealth or of race, in which too many voters have to contend with State officials, servants of the public, who put partisan or personal political interests ahead of the public in administering our elections--in such circumstances, we have an obligation to fix the problem.
I have to add this is not a problem unique to this election, and it is not a partisan problem. Keep in mind, I come from Cook County, from Chicago, in which there is a long record of these kinds of problems taking place and disadvantaging Republicans as well as Democrats. So I ask that all of us rise up and use this occasion to amend this problem.
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