Tuesday, February 15, 2005

A Letter from the Cobb Voting Rights Group

Dear Friends,

Thank you for your support. The response to our call for contributions and volunteers to make the Ohio Recount a reality was amazing. We have been humbled by this outpouring of support and feel privileged to have stood up on behalf of the people of this country and the democratic process we cherish.

On January 7, the day after Congress debated the historic challenge to Ohio's tainted Electoral College votes, the New York Times wrote: "In many ways, the debate came about because of the relentless efforts of a small group of third-party activists, liberal lawyers, Internet muckrakers, and civil rights groups..."

A week after the election, after thousands of reports of irregularities, intimidation and stories of voters standing four-six-eight hours in the rain, we decided to demand a recount of the Ohio vote and asked Michael Badnarik of the Libertarian Party to join us. Within ten days of making our announcement, we received over 6,000 individual donations from voters around the country who feel, as we do, that the integrity of our democracy is at stake. By the time the recount began, over 3,400 volunteers had offered to help witness the recount.

Genuine democracy takes the hard work of ordinary citizens doing extraordinary things.We sent our recount request and filing fee to all of Ohio's 88 counties on November 18th. We then filed in federal court asking that the process be expedited because it was clear that Ohio's Republican Secretary of State, J. Kenneth Blackwell, planned to delay certifying the statewide vote totals until the last possible moment - December 6th - the day before the Ohio Electors were certified. We went to court again on December 3rd, this time defending ourselves from a suit filed against us by Delaware County, who didn't want to do the recount. On December 10th, we went back to federal court asking for judicial intervention because we were alarmed at the widely varying standards being proposed for the recount by the County Boards of Elections.

In each case, the court made it clear that while we had a right to a recount, the court would not grant emergency relief since our campaign would not suffer "irreparable harm" as we were unlikely to gain any electors.

The Ohio Recount began on December 13 at 7am. Almost all the County Boards of Elections did not follow Ohio law and did not randomly select the precincts to be hand counted. Other problems included a lack of security for the ballots and voting machines and the refusal of some counties to do a full hand recount when required by law to do so.

In some places, witnesses were threatened with expulsion if they asked questions and were told to stand up to twenty feet away from where the recount was taking place. In far too few places, our volunteers were treated with the respect they deserved. On December 30th, we filed an amended complaint in federal court, demanding that the recount of Ohio's presidential vote be done again, this time in conformance with state and federal law.

The recount was frustrating, exhausting - and inspiring. At every step, the established power structure was against us. But We The People, all of us who worked together to make the recount and the challenge to Ohio's electors, were there to stand up for our right to vote and for the right for those votes to be counted. We trained two thousand volunteers to serve as legal witnesses for the recount. You can read preliminary reports from these witnesses and our County Coordinators at www.votecobb.org/recount/ohio reports/.

Although we still have many more reports to sift through and post to our site, we already know that the recount re-enfranchised thousands of voters. In Coshocton County alone, one thousand and eighty new votes were counted because of our recount demand.
Together, we are building a loud and joyous movement for democracy.

The Green Party is committed to genuine grassroots democracy. Remember that the founders of this country denied many people—including women and people of color—the right to vote. Our democracy is constantly evolving. In order to create an accountable and transparent democratic process worthy of our country and people, we need many electoral reforms. We need an end to partisan administration of elections. We need voter verifiable paper trails and meaningful recounts. We need Election Day Registration (EDR), already in use in six states, so that every eligible citizen who shows up on Election Day can register and vote.

Our current, undemocratic voting system often forces people to vote for a candidate they don't really support in order to keep an even worse candidate out of office. Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) is a simple solution that allows people to vote their conscience and rank candidates in their order of preference. IRV guarantees that the winner has the support of a majority of voters. IRV also eliminates the "spoiler" dynamic in elections.

We urgently need publicly funded elections to eliminate the influence of private money in our democracy and allow ordinary citizens to run for - and win - public office. We need to change restrictive ballot access laws which deny voters choice. We need to abolish the anachronistic Electoral College. We need a constitutional right to vote, something provided for in the interim constitutions of Iraq and Afghanistan but not in the U.S. Constitution. Over four million Americans are not allowed to vote because of felony disenfranchisement laws that strip voting rights from citizens with criminal records, many of whom have fully completed their sentences.

It is not enough to ensure that every vote is counted; we want every vote to count towards the result. We need a multi-party democracy with proportional representation, where candidates and parties are elected in proportion to the level of support received at the polls. An entire Voters Bill of Rights needs to be enacted (www.codepinkalert.org/National Actions Voter Bill of Rights.shtml).

The second generation of the voting rights movement, committed to these critical electoral reforms, is a growing, vibrant force.

The Green Party will continue the important work of building genuine democracy. We are poised and ready to work in cooperation and collaboration with individuals and parties across the political spectrum. If you have not already done so, please take a moment to visit www.gp.org to learn more about the Green Party. If you're in Ohio, you can find the Ohio Green Party at www.ohiogreens.org. And please continue to visit our web site, www.votecobb.org. which is a valuable resource for information on electoral reform and the New Voting Rights Movement.

Together, we are making progress towards a more just, peaceful, sustainable and democratic world. In solidarity,

David Cobb
2004 Green Party presidential candidate

Lynne Serpe
Ohio Recount Manager

PS. Your input is essential for continuing to create genuine democracy. Please contribute your time and talents and donate to your state Green Party, the national Green Party or to your favorite voting rights organization. A list of voting rights organizations can be found at www. votecobb.org/resources/sites/.

Thank you!


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