OBJECTION TO COUNTING OF OHIO ELECTORAL VOTES -- (Senate - January 06, 2005)
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Mr. KENNEDY. First of all, I commend and thank our friend from California, Senator Boxer, for giving us this opportunity to address the Senate on this issue.
On November 3, John Kerry conceded the 2004 Presidential election to George Bush. While we do not question the outcome, many of us remain deeply concerned that for the second time in a row, in a closely contested election, there were so many complaints about the ability of voters to cast their votes and have them counted fairly.
The right to vote is the cornerstone of our democracy. Every Member of Congress has a duty to protect and uphold that right. When that right is threatened, Congress must act to protect it. Clearly, the legislation we enacted to do so after the 2000 election was not adequate for the 2004 election.
Forty years ago this year, after the Selma-Montgomery march, many of us in the Senate and House worked hard to pass the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965, to guarantee that racism and its bitter legacy do not close the polls to any citizen.
After the 2000 election, we passed the Help America Vote Act in an effort to correct the serious problems that undermined the right to vote in that election.
Unfortunately, last November, we learned that we still have work to do. As in 2000, the votes of many who wanted to vote were not, in fact, counted. The reasons are many and varied. Some voters gave up in the face of endless lines and waits of many hours at polling places unable to handle the large turnout of voters. In other cases, voting was frustrated by broken or ancient voting machinery, by confusion over applicable rules for voting precincts, or because States decided that certain votes did not comply with arbitrary and inflexible State or local procedures. We saw all those problems in Ohio. It is far from clear the extent to which these serious problems were the result of intended manipulation or widespread incompetence, but either way, the voting process did not live up to the standards worthy of our democracy.
Today's debate is an opportunity for all of us to admit that the 2004 election was flawed and to pledge action in this new Congress to fix the festering problems once and for all.
Citizens must have faith that they will be able to cast their votes efficiently and with complete confidence that their votes will be fairly and accurately counted. We cannot go through another election wondering whether a patchwork of unequal and outdated procedures--whether by accident or design--have yet again denied so many of our fellow citizens the right to vote.
I commend the many thousands of citizens in Massachusetts and other States who insisted that treating today's electoral vote count in Congress as a meaningless ritual would be an insult to our democracy unless we register our own protest against the obviously flawed voting process that took place in so many of our States. We are hopeful that this major issue that goes to the heart of our democracy is now firmly implanted on the agenda for effective action by this Congress.
Few things are more important to the Nation and to each of us, both Republican and Democrat, than a genuine guarantee that the people's will is heard through the ballot. No democracy worth the name can allow such a flawed election process to take place again.
Mr. President, I yield the floor.
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