My daughters and I have cast paper ballots in the opening days of the 2008 presidential election. It was their first time voting in a presidential election.
That they have only voted with an African-American atop the Democratic ticket makes this doubly historic for them. The issue of race remains a great unknown in how things will turn out.
But so does the question of whether everyone who wants to vote can, and whether those votes will be accurately counted (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bHiCFe2GBjk).
Four years ago this county tried to deny me the right to cast an absentee ballot. After four phone calls and some serious politicking, I finally did get a paper ballot, which I hand delivered to the election board. But was it counted?
My twins are now 21. On Friday, October 3, 2008, we drove to Veterans Memorial in downtown Columbus to cast our ballots under unique circumstances. For a full week, Ohio voters have been able to register and vote at the same time.
It took the focused efforts of thousands of election protection activists -- and a legal defense team -- to make this happen and other things suitable to a democracy. Such victories will define whether we get fair participation and a reliable vote count in November, and thus who will be the next president.
Since the stolen election of 2000, the Democratic Party and corporate media have studiously ignored the fact that we have been afflicted with an unelected president. A media-based recount in Florida showed Al Gore was the clear winner there eight years ago.
In violation of federal law, 56 of Ohio's 88 counties have destroyed election-related materials, making a comprehensive 2004 recount impossible. No one has been prosecuted. But those of us who watched first-hand how the 2004 election was conducted here know all too well that it was stolen in a "do everything" campaign that the Democratic Party still doesn't comprehend, and does not seem to want to acknowledge.
Nonetheless, we may be entering the 2008 contest in somewhat better shape. Independent reporting on the internet and some talk radio organizing, plus a few major books and articles in places like Rolling Stone and Harper's, have inspired a new grassroots movement for election protection.
We have won important victories, such as removing Ohio's infamous Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell, the critical point man for Karl Rove's 2004 hijacking. We are pursuing Michael Connell, a shadowy Bush IT operative who has been accused by a Republican insider of working to rig this and other elections.
In Ohio, as many as a third of Ohio voters are casting their ballots early. By law, a quarter of those coming to the polls will be able to get paper ballots (we are working to make them available to all who want them). As my cohort Bob Fitrakis puts it, the choice will be between paper or the plastic of voting machines.
But the specter of disenfranchisement and electronic theft still hangs over this election as a twin curse to endemic racism. Millions of Americans are being systematically eliminated from voter rolls in as many as 19 states. Most of these are inner city and other vulnerable voters known to be heavily Democratic. Among them are African-American soldiers stationed overseas.
Some 300,000 Ohioans were deleted from the registration rolls prior to the 2004 vote count. Had they all voted, John Kerry might have been in the White House these past four years. Another 170,000 were eliminated after 2004 in Franklin County (Columbus) alone.
Throughout the US, Republican operatives are working overtime to decimate the Democratic turnout. The Bush Administration has already fired nine federal prosecutors for refusing to conduct a bogus witch hunt against legitimate voters.
But other attacks are proceeding, and could make all the difference. You who claim concern about our electoral process might spend at least some of this next month monitoring election boards and guaranteeing that those who believe they are registered do not show up at the polls November 4 only to find they have been disenfranchised for the "crime" of leaning left.
We must also have zero tolerance for electronic voting machines. There may actually be thousands more of these election theft devices deployed throughout the US this year than ever before. As always, the big vendors are hiding their software from the public, claiming it is "proprietary."
But as registration activists, poll workers, judges, official observers and Video-the-Vote workers (see "Be a Poll Worker and Save American Democracy," http://www.freepress.org/departments/display/19/2008/3205) you may be in a position to exert critical leverage on access to decisions on software, hardware deployment and vote counting that could save thousands of legitimate ballots throughout the US.
In our next article, Bob Fitrakis, Sheri Myers and I will write in detail about the history of electronic election theft and its long-time master of disenfranchisement, Karl Rove.
In the meantime, it's crucial to remember that favorable polling numbers will not guarantee a fair election. Carefully manipulated racism, plus mass disenfranchisement, rigging of electronic voting machines and additional Rovian dirty tricks are what brought us eight hellish years of George W. Bush. Without taking drastic grassroots action, they could be used again to tack on four more, from which it is not likely this nation would survive.
The good news is that we have won some victories. My daughters have voted in a safe, secure atmosphere, and there's a reasonable chance their ballots will be counted -- along with millions more.
But to guarantee a full voter turnout, and a safe reliable, vote count, you must get involved. Visit The Free Press (http://freepress.org) and Poll Workers for Democracy (http://act.credoaction.com/pollworkers/index.html).
This year, there is no excuse. We know what has happened, and we know the consequences of inaction. See you in the army.... of election protection workers.
Harvey Wasserman is co-author, with Bob Fitrakis, of four books on election protection which are available at www.freepress.org, where this article first appeared. His Harvey Wasserman's History of the US is at www.harveywasserman.com along with SOLARTOPIA! Our Green-Powered Earth, A.D. 2030.
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