December 14, 2004
Rev. Jesse Jackson: "We must not adjust to tyranny."
Rev. Jesse Jackson writes "We must not adjust to tryanny".
From Selma to Palm Beach to Columbus
by Jesse Jackson
From Selma to Palm Beach to Columbus
Today as we gather the worth of the America's vote and the credibility of
our democracy is being weighed in the balance. Why is the election in
Ohio certified 34 days after the election? Why was there such a large
exit poll gap in Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio? Why are the parallels
between Ohio and Florida - pre-election problems, Election Day
irregularities and post-election counting - so consistent?
We must not adjust to tyranny and gloat that imperfection in voting
irregularities and suppression tactics are reasonable expectations. They
are not. Too many world changing events have hinged on one vote for us to
be cavalier when thousands are systematically disenfranchised.
I am here today to make a moral appeal for a thorough investigation -
including forensic computer analysis of the machines - in Ohio. To
recount the vote in the face of so many irregularities and
inconsistencies. And for those in charge to recluse themselves inasmuch
as the judge or the referee in a battle must have a detached objectivity
with the appearance of fairness. We must further change the law.
This system of a 50 state, separate and unequal elections must give way
to the fulfillment of the America promise, which requires an amendment to
the Constitutional affirming the individual right to vote, federally
protected, and an even playing field for all Americans. The Electoral
College should be abolished; it should not have the power to defy the
I am here today to speak up for those who we asked to stand in line for
hours to vote, in precincts with incomplete poll lists, facing
out-of-state shyster lawyers armed with caging lists, with non-auditable,
privately owned voting machines without paper trails, hemmed in by
arbitrary rules issued by partisan, biased and ambitious election
I am here today to speak up for the poor, for too long denied the right
to vote. For women who's right to vote was extended in the 1920's, for
whites who could not pay poll taxes, and Latinos who are English language
challenged. For African Americans, this has been a 346 year journey, a
long road of bloody battles, denials, unjust laws, lynchings, work
without wages, and through it all, served honorably in our nation's
military to create and defend democracy around the world. This right has
been too slow coming, survived by too much violence, for our leadership
to be so cavalier and with a shrug of a shoulder, to let it go.
In Ohio I stood in the rain for 2 hours, for 4 hours, for 8 hours, just
to cast a vote that might or might not be counted. Some were told they
were in the wrong line, sometimes with more than one precinct in the
room, told to go to the back of the line, in "line 2." For the poor,
illiterate, the old and sick, this was classic voter > suppression.
I am here today to speak up for Latinos in Nevada, who were falsely
registered to vote by thugs who then tore up their voter registration
forms, throwing them in the trash. I am here today to speak up for Native
Americans, who continue to be mistreated and ripped off by powerful
public officials in so many states, who ask only to be allowed to go cast
their votes in a land that was taken from them by force.
We must not betray dreams of those that paid such a high price by
silence, impatience or surrender. I am here today to speak up for
students and young people, who turned out in force despite county
officials who often tried to deter and deny them polling places on
Therefore, a legal complaint should be filed asserting a violation of
Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act - that the voting procedures in Ohio
resulted in disparate impact on minority voters.
Far too many are being far too silent and passive in the face of this
challenge to democracy. The Attorney General is charged with enforcement
of the Voting Rights Act, and must use the resources of its office to
enforce the equal protection provisions. Silence is betrayal.
For the tremendous legislative work lead by Lyndon Johnson in 1965, for
the awesome leadership of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., for the blood of
Goodwin, Schwerner and Cheney, Viola Luiza, Medgar Evers, and the
wreaking pain and humiliation endured by Fannie Lou Hamer, I continue to
urge the Kerry campaign, the DNC and Democratic Party, those who depend
upon the vote of African Americans, Latinos, people of color and the
young - those that profess to love freedom and dignity of any party - to
join us. I urge the Congress to act before Michael Moore comes back and
exposes the violations and the capitulation again.
Why 34 days before certification of Ohio's vote, yet we keep hearing a
clean election without problems?
The Black vote was the object of so much tyranny up to 1965 and so many
maneuvering schemes of gerrymandering, annexation, at-large voting, roll
purging and voter intimidation through the 1990s. The black vote, which
is so instrumental when our vote is counted, was again targeted in
several ways. The impact of that targeting affects us all: 1) the longest
lines; 2) the most spoilage and discounted votes; 3) the most eliminated
provisional votes; 4) the most inconvenienced; 5) the most victimized by
Ohio, 34 days. Suppose five states had to wait 34 days for certification
of their elections. And they could be if people had the will to contest
it. Suppose the Ukraine or South Africa or Iraq had to wait 34 days
before election certification?
Why 92,000 "unprocessed" ballots, mostly among the poor, under-counts and
over-counts, often a result of a breakdown in machinery. Why 150,000
provisional ballots in 88 counties, using different voting machines and
standards for counting and dis-counting votes? Why in 2004 do we have an
uneven field, different standards and faulty machines characterizing the
vote in too many places?
Why in Warren County did election officials issue a "homeland security
threat," then lock out the press and independent observers while they
secretly counted the vote? Why are voting machines still used that are
privately owned by partisans, still subject to glitches and manipulation.
Why are absentee ballots and military ballots still issued in an
inconsistent, inaccurate, and untimely fashion?
Who is accountable? The integrity of the voting machines, and the machine
tabulation, is an issue. We need a forensic computer analysis of the
voter machines, and the machines left in the warehouses must be
The whole idea that partisans with a vested interest in the outcome can
be in charge of the election is unreasonable. Suppose two teams play for
the Super Bowl - and the election is the Super Bowl of American
politics - and the owner of the home, incumbent team was in charge of the
judges, referees and the replay. That would be unacceptable. Impartiality
is a key to the very appearance of > fairness.
I urge Congress to come to Ohio to conduct a hearing and you will see the
classic calamity of a state's rights election at work, with different
standards at work in every state and county. The richer counties have
first class machinery, the poorer counties get poorer machinery. People
in rural areas are yet another victim of the uneven playing field.
Do not take lightly the exit poll gaps, the most superior of "polls."
Don't take lightly the vote disparity between Kerry and Democratic
Supreme Court candidate Ellen Connally - in Cuyahoga County where she is
best known, Kerry got 120,000 more votes than Connally; but in 15 other
Ohio counties, Connally's margin over her opponent was 190,000 votes
GREATER than Kerry's margin over Bush. This abnormal and inexplicable
vote disparity demands investigation.
In conclusion, this race is not over until it is certified that every
vote is counted and honored and until a full investigation shows that
every vote was honored. And for the future credibility of the process, we
must end the practice and precedent of voter suppression and
As we approach the 40th year of the Voting Rights Act ending voter
discrimination in the states, we must honor the legacy of Dr. King and
LBJ, both of whom faced persecution and marginalization. It is a success
of their efforts that has given America credibility, our democracy
bragging rights around the world. Can you imagine America today without a
Public Accommodations Bill or the Voting Rights Act. Yet, the forces that
resisted those landmarks then, never ceased to find ways to manipulate
and undermine them.
Those who never fought for the right to vote at home, who did not stand
with Dr. King and sought to marginalize Lyndon Johnson, now bomb for
democracy in Iraq, and judge democracy in the Ukraine, hold high
standards for democracy in South Africa. I cry out for this sense of
urgency and an even playing field for democracy at home.
I make this appeal today to honor the great American dream to make this a
more perfect union, to complete the task of honoring America's highest
promises. Arguably, the four highest moments in our democracy are:
1) 1865: the 13th amendment to abolish slavery, after 246 years;
2) 1954: the end legal Jim Crow in 1954, after nearly another century;
3) 1964: the passage of the Civil Rights Act;
4) 1965: the passage of the Voting Rights Act.
This promise of the founding fathers, this dream of Dr. King, this
passion of Lyndon Johnson, must be honored.
The unfinished business of this drive for an open, fair and transparent
democracy is our focus today. Before we go any further debating amending
the Constitution for immigrant access to the White House, though a noble
cause, it will only help some, we should implement a one person, one vote
democracy - the direct election of the President - that will motivate a
51-state campaign inclusive of the entire nation, not just 20
battleground states. Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr.'s (D-IL) bill, which
calls for a Constitutional amendment on the right to vote for all U.S.
citizens - Presidential elections with one set of rules where the
individual right to vote is protected by the U.S. Constitution - will go
a long way toward achieving this goal.
Lady Liberty was presented to America as a gift by the French when we
made the bold and bloody step to end slavery and save the Union, when we
broke with the tyrants of suppression, colonialism and slavery - it
elevated America to the mountaintop of hope, it allowed the whole world
to look at our beacon light. It is in the context of the conquest for a
more perfect union, of America honoring it's promise that Lady Liberty
can say, "give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses - who yearn
to breathe free." We must not allow the flame to go out, even for the
least of these.
Today this is our challenge and our opportunity. Let us celebrate 2005
the year of Martin Luther King and Lyndon Johnson, the year democracy was
born for all of us. The year we complete the unfinished business of
American democracy. My brothers and sisters, we have unfinished business.
Keep hope alive.