Thursday, March 03, 2005

Conyers Forces Election Reform on House Floor

By William Rivers Pitt

t r u t h o u t Perspective
Thursday 03 March 2005

Rep. John Conyers forced the issue of election reform on the House floor this afternoon.

The House is now considering a bill to provide continuity in congressional representation. In plain english, the bill attempts to address the problem of what would happen should a significant portion of congress get wiped out by a terrorist attack. Basically, it establishes a new system of deadlines and special elections in that event.

Rep. Conyers finds it ridiculous that the House is spending so much energy (and acting with such speed) to solve a hypothetical problem, about a hypothetical election, when there are so many real problems with our real elections.

In a surprise maneuver, which is called a 'Motion to Recommit' (basically an amendment offered at the end of consideration of a bill; the GOP generally do not get more than five minutres notice of it, and the debate is five minutes per side), Conyers forced the issue.

His official statement reads as follows:

Mr. Speaker, for a measure that purports to protect our democracy, I have to admit the manner by which this legislation has been brought before us today considerably undermines those very principles.

On the substance, this bill - the subject of so much concern - falls for short of fixing what is wrong with our democracy.

When it comes to elections, this is not even close to our biggest concern. Why are we worrying so much about hypothetical problems about a hypothetical election when we have had two consecutive elections in this country where ACTUAL VOTERS were disenfranchised?

On those issues, this House remains silent. It remains silent about the ten hour lines that disenfranchised minority voters in Ohio. It remains silent about the 4,000 votes lost in North Carolina because of a faulty voting machines. It remains silent about the intimidating tactics, fake letters and fliers, and other illegal acts designed to disenfranchise minority voters that have been used by one political party to bolster their electoral fortunes.

Will it help the inner-city voter in Franklin County, Ohio who waited ten hours in the pouring rain, while suburban voters in that county had no appreciable wait times?

What will this bill do to correct the problems that occurred in the most recent presidential election?

Will it help the elderly voter in Lucas County who requested an absentee ballot that never showed up and then on election day was refused a provisional ballot?

Will it do anything for the Hispanic voter in Hamilton County who was directed to the wrong voting table, and had their ballot thrown out because of a decision by the Secretary of State to throw out all ballots cast at the right polling place but the wrong precinct?

I'm afraid the answer to all of these questions is undoubtedly, "NO."

In addition, I'm afraid it will do nothing to offer an explanation for the numerous machines in Mahoning County that recorded Kerry votes for Bush; the improper purging that took place in Cuyhaoga County; the machine tampering that occurred in Hocking County; or the 99% turnout that took place in Miami County.

But here we are. In an end run around the legislative process, HR 841was introduced a mere 4 legislative business days ago on February 16th. On the following day, a hasty markup of the bill was held by the House Administration Committee. One legislative day later, the bill was taken before rules. And today, just four days after its introduction, here we are.

But we don't have time for real election reform. For the House leadership, that can wait for another day. The American people deserve more.

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