Monday, January 17, 2005

"We must get our house in order"

By Paul Jacobs, columnist for the Californian, January 15, 2005

In his MLK holiday column, Paul Jacobs considers the election reform work that lies ahead before the civil rights leader's dreams are realized.



Tomorrow's holiday honors Martin Luther King Jr., who raised America's consciousness and directed this nation on an enlightened, moral path toward equality for humankind. Almost 37 years after his march for civil rights was cut short by an assassin's bullet, his dream has yet to be fully realized.

Progress has been made in the absence of pointing out accomplishments of African-Americans as though they somehow beat the odds. When Chuck Washington was elected to the Temecula City Council in 2003, thankfully there was no headline screaming, "First African-American elected to Temecula council." This is an encouraging sign that our society is finally learning to be colorblind.

But in the same week that we celebrate the life of MLK Jr. and inaugurate the president, there are painful indications that more must be done before we reach that promised land where all men and women are created and treated equal.

It hardly made a blip on the news cycle, but a historic event occurred Jan. 6 when Senator Barbara Boxer joined with U.S. Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones, a Democrat from Ohio, in objection to the certification of Ohio's electoral votes, resulting in the Senate and the Congress adjourning for two hours to discuss and vote on the objection ---- an event that hasn't happened in this democracy since 1877.


Ohio's secretary of state, who also co-chaired the state Bush-Cheney campaign, faithfully certified Ohio's election results despite nonsensical voter tallies in a number of precincts, such as in Franklin County where Bush originally received an extra 4,258 votes in a precinct where only 638 people voted. These incongruities were fixed with no explanation for the original corrupt data.

Affluent, predominantly white neighborhoods in Ohio had plenty of voting machines and polling booths for voters, but in poorer, predominantly African-American precincts, voters were made to wait hours to vote, some in pouring rain. It is estimated that thousands of Ohio voters gave up on voting, rather than standing several hours in line to cast their vote. Before we force democracy in faraway lands, we need to get our own house in order so every American can cast their vote and have it counted with a verifiable paper trail.

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