Sen Wyden endorses Rep Conyers' Report, but certifies election
Here is Ron Wyden's speech regarding the electoral college and Ohio vote fraud.
Statement on the Electoral College Vote Certification
Senator Ron Wyden
January 6, 2005
M. President, it is extraordinarily important for both sides to be gracious when an American election is over. But I also believe it's extraordinarily important not to ignore urgently needed election reforms such as requiring a paper trail for every single ballot that is cast in our country. Such a paper trail is required in my home state. In this last election, record numbers of Oregonians voted. There weren't allegations of fraud. The system worked, and worked well. Unfortunately, that is not the case in too many communities in our country.
M. President, not long ago the United States Senate spent weeks debating whether one dog in Missouri was an illegal voter. I worked for months back then on a bipartisan basis to make sure Mitzi would never be allowed to vote again.
Now, in the name of justice, when hundreds of thousands of Americans feel they have been disenfranchised, I do not think their concerns should be swept under the rug.
Democracy cannot succeed unless voters are confident at the end of the election that the outcome is accurate and fair. Unfortunately, the fiasco in Florida in 2000 has now been followed by a large number of irregularities in 2004 in a variety of states. These continuing problems threaten to further erode voter confidence -- to the point that all future elections may be subject to accusations of stolen elections. In my view, that would strain the fundamental relationship between the government and the people, and place at risk the future of our democracy.
On December 1 of 2004, the Boston Globe detailed voting irregularities across the country that should trouble every member of this body. In North Carolina, Indiana, Washington, Ohio, and Florida, the Globe found significant problems with the vote. While not proving of a volume of irregularities that would have changed the outcome of the Presidential election, when you take their findings together with other documented problems, it raises significant and troubling questions. I believe these questions can only be answered if this Congress finishes the job of election reform.
On November 22, 2004, I wrote to Representative John Conyers, to lend my support for an investigation into voting irregularities in Ohio. In the letter I urged him "to address voting irregularities and possible fraud in Ohio in the 2004 election." I had heard from hundreds of my constituents in Oregon who are concerned that the 2004 election in Ohio may have been tainted by systemic voting irregularities.
Representative Conyers' report was released yesterday. The report is a detailed examination of evidence of serious abuse of the voting process. The report concludes "there are ample grounds for challenging the electors from Ohio," and calls for "additional and more vigorous hearings into the irregularities in the Ohio presidential election and around the country."
Two years ago Congress passed the Help America Vote Act to prevent polling places across the country from looking like Dodge City before the marshals showed up.
I fought hard to make sure every registered voter who cast a provisional ballot would have their vote counted. I worked for months to make sure Oregonians who vote by mail didn't have to drive by the Xerox store to make a copy of their utility bill before sending in their ballot.
The Help America Vote Act worked well in many places. It worked well in my own state of Oregon, where voters set a few records last November. More than 2.1 million registered to vote, the most in state history, and 86.5 percent of registered voters participated - the most since the l960 Kennedy-Nixon presidential race. And because of the provision protecting Oregon's vote-by-mail system, Oregonians were able to cast a record number of votes by mail in the presidential race.
But the Help America Vote Act didn't work well in Ohio. As documented in the Conyers report, the evidence there raises deeply troubling questions about whether everyone in Ohio had an equal opportunity to vote and to have their vote count.
The Washington Post, New York Times, Cincinnati Enquirer and other papers reported that election officials shifted electronic voting machines from traditionally low income, urban precincts to wealthier suburban precincts, or skimped on the number of machines needed in some college towns. This forced voters to spend hour upon hour waiting in line, or to give up voting entirely and go home.
In one county, where only 800 citizens were registered to vote, more than 4,500 votes were counted. In another precinct, where only a few hundred votes were cast for presidential candidates, lesser known candidates received tens of thousands of votes. That left me scratching my head. Why would voters wait hours in line to cast a vote for a state Supreme Court candidate but not for president of the United States? That defies common sense.
The Washington Post reported that in Youngstown, dozens of electronic voting machines actually "flipped" or switched votes from one presidential candidate to another. This was confirmed by a veteran reporter for a local newspaper, the Buckeye Review, who said she pushed the button for Kerry and watched her vote jump to the Bush column. Voting machines in a precinct in Youngstown recorded a negative 25 million votes.
The decisions made by Ohio officials about who could and could not use provisional ballots were also disturbing to me. As a principal author of the HAVA section allowing provisional ballots, I found the Ohio Secretary of State's decision to restrict the ability of voters to use provisional ballots a clear violation of the spirit if not the letter of the law.
I do not seek to judge the motivation behind these incidents or whether there was any motivation at all involved. The fact is that when they are added together, these incidents represent a disturbing pattern and they disenfranchised voters.
HAVA was a good first step in enfranchising more Americans, but clearly the law fell short. The one lesson that should have been learned from Florida was that the elections process has to be made more simple and less complicated. Ohio shows this lesson has yet to be learned.
I have profound respect for my friend and colleague, Mr. Conyers. He is a thoughtful and hard working member of the House, and a long-time champion for truth and justice in America. I do not agree with his recommendation that Congress should vote against certifying the election because no one has yet shown adequate evidence of widespread fraud and abuse that might have changed the outcome. To fail to certify the election absent proof of this level of error would inflict far greater damage to our democracy and future elections than anything that has occurred to date.
That having been said, I do agree with and endorse two of the three recommendations from the Conyers Report. The second recommendation asks that Congress engage in further hearings regarding the Ohio allegations and goes so far as to ask for a joint House-Senate committee to investigate the matter. I believe that this would help uncover the problems, dispel any myths, and focus our attention for the difficult work ahead. That work is the subject of the third recommendation of the Conyers Report. That recommendation calls for a legislative response to the problems in the 2004 election, such as quote "more specific federal protections for federal elections, particularly in the areas of audit capability for electronic voting machines and casting and counting of provisional ballots."
Again, the Conyers report does not find sufficient evidence of fraud and abuse to change the outcome of the presidential election in Ohio. But there is one simple step that I and others have worked on for years, that would go a long way to restoring confidence in election results. That is to require a paper trail for every ballot. If this one requirement had been in place, there would be far fewer questions today.
The problems of abuse and fraud found in Ohio last November must be addressed before the next election so that all the American people believe the result is legitimate. I ask my colleagues to begin working with me today on a bipartisan basis to make sure that the problems in Ohio and elsewhere are fixed before the next elections. Otherwise, the growing lack of confidence in the conduct of our elections will begin to overshadow the elections, and there will be many more members of the Senate reluctantly compelled to the floor demanding to know what happened.
M. President, I yield the floor.
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