January 6, 2005
CONTACT: Nicole Y. Williams
Washington, D.C. –Today, Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones, along with Senator Barbara Boxer (CA), entered a formal objection to the certification of the State of Ohio's Electoral Votes. Her prepared floor statement, in part, was as follows:
"I, Stephanie Tubbs Jones, a representative from Ohio, and Ms. Boxer, a Senator from California, object to the counting of the electoral votes of the State of Ohio on the ground that they were not, under all of the known circumstances, regularly given.
"I, thank God, that I have a Senator joining me in this objection. I appreciate Senator Boxer's willingness to listen to the plight of hundreds and even thousands of Ohio voters that for a variety of reasons were denied the right to vote. Unfortunately objecting to the electoral votes from Ohio is the only immediate avenue to bring these issues to light.
"While some have called our cause foolish I can assure you that my parents, Mary and Andrew Tubbs did not raise any fools and as a lawyer, former judge and prosecutor, I am duty bound to follow the law and apply the law to the facts as I find them.
"It is on behalf of those millions of Americans who believe in and value our democratic process and the right to vote that I put forth this objection today. If they are willing stand at the polls for countless hours in the rain as many did in Ohio, then I can surely stand up for them here in the halls of Congress.
"This objection does not have at its root the hope or even the hint of overturning or challenging the victory of the President; but it is a necessary, timely and appropriate opportunity to review and remedy the most precious process in our democracy."
"I raise this objection neither to put the nation in the turmoil of a proposed overturned election nor to provide cannon fodder or partisan demagoguery for my fellow Republican Members of Congress.
"I raise this objection because I am convinced that we as a body must conduct a formal and legitimate debate about election irregularities. I raise this objection to debate the process and protect the integrity of the true will of the people.
"Again, I thank Senator Boxer for joining me in this objection to the counting of Ohio's electoral votes due to the considerable number of voting irregularities that transpired in my home state.
"There are serious allegations in two lawsuits pending in Ohio that debate the constitutionality of the denial of provisional ballots to voters (The Sandusky County Democratic Party v. J. Kenneth Blackwell) and Ohio's vote recount (Yost v. David Cobb, et al.). These legitimate questions brought forward by the lawsuits, which go to the core of our voting and Democratic process, should be resolved before Ohio's electoral votes are certified.
"Moreover, as you are aware, advancing legislative initiatives is more challenging when you are in the minority party in Congress. However, this challenge is multiplied when you are in the minority in the House of Representatives because of House rules, compared to Senate rules.
"Voting irregularities were an issue after the 2000 presidential election, when Democratic House initiatives relating to election reform were not considered.
"Therefore, in order to prevent our voices from being kept silent, it is imperative that we object to the counting of Ohio's electoral votes and debate the issue of Ohio's voting improprieties.
"There are just over 1 million registered voters in Cuyahoga County - which of course includes the Greater Cleveland area and the 11th Congressional District which I represent. Registration increased approximately 10 percent.
"The beauty of the 2004 election was that more people were fully prepared to exercise their right to vote - however on Election Day hundreds and even thousands of individuals went to the voting polls and were denied the opportunity to have their vote count.
"In my own county where citizen volunteers put forth a Herculean effort to register, educate, mobilize and protect the vote there were people who experienced irregularities.
"Poor and minority communities had disproportionately long waits - 4 to 5 hours waits were widespread. Election Protection Coalition testified that more than half of the complaints about long lines they received “came from Columbus and Cleveland where a huge proportion of the state’s Democratic voters live. One entire polling place in Cuyahoga County (Greater Cleveland) had to “shut down” at 9:25 a.m. on Election Day because there were no working machines.
"Cuyahoga County had an overall provisional ballot rejection rate of 32 percent. Rejection rates for provisional ballots in African American precincts/wards in Cleveland, Ohio averaged 37 percent and ranged as high as 51 percent.
"Thousands of partisan challengers - concentrated in Cuyahoga County’s minority and Democratic communities - effectively served to intimidate voters and confuse poll workers. There were both inconsistent and illegal requests for photo identification.
"There were problems with absentee ballots including incorrect information provided to voters by the Secretary of State and, consequently, the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections telling voters they could not vote in their precinct – effectively disenfranchising hundreds and more likely thousands of voters.
"This objection points out the inadequacy of a great election system which permits 50 Secretary's of State to administer a federal election and impose so many different state laws regulating the election.
"In Ohio, the Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell who served as Co-Chair of the Bush re-election campaign, issued a bizarre series of directives in the days preceding the 2004 Presidential election that created tremendous confusion among voters in Cuyahoga County and across the state of Ohio.
"For example; on September 7, 2004, Secretary Blackwell issued a directive to local boards of elections mandating rejection of voter registration forms based on their paperweight – 80lb text weight. Mr. Blackwell’s issuance of this directive – which he ultimately reversed by September 28, 2004 - resulted in serious confusion and chaos among the counties and voters.
"My objection points to the need to implement across this nation standards that apply to all states. We need to enact legislation that will:
* Allow all voters to vote early - so that obligations of employment and family will not interfere with the ability to cast a vote.
* Establish a national holiday - Election Day to bring attention to the importance of the vote.
* Require those who work in the voting booth to be fairly compensated, adequately educated and sufficiently supported such that the job importance will be elevated.
* That will provide equipment - whether it is the traditional punch card or the more modern electronic machines that are properly calibrated, fully tested for accuracy and provide a paper trial to ensure a verifiable audit of every vote.
"What happened in Ohio may well have been repeated in counties across this country. Yet that is no excuse for us to push the irregularities behind us and go on with the business of the day. These incidents are a call for us to clean up, clear up and implement policies and procedures that will protect each citizen's precious right to vote.
"If in fact we see it is our obligation to secure democracy around the world to monitor and oversee free and fair elections in other countries surely we must ensure, protect and guarantee the right to vote right here at home."