[sixties-l] John Lewis on the vote

From: radman (resist@best.com)
Date: 12/05/00

  • Next message: PNFPNF@aol.com: "[sixties-l] alternative spellings and history"

                  December 2, 2000
                     By JOHN LEWIS
                 ATLANTA -- The United States exists today
                 because our forefathers fought and died for the
                 right to vote. One hundred years later, women
                 took to the streets to win it. And two
                 generations ago, hundreds of thousands of
                 Americans risked their lives fighting to ensure
                 that blacks had this right.
                 The history of the vote in America is a history
                 of conflict, of struggling for the principle of
                 one person, one vote.
                 Friends of mine died for this principle. I was
                 beaten and jailed because I stood up for it. For
                 millions like me, the struggle for the right to
                 vote is not mere history; it is experience.
                 For nearly 100 years, Southern whites used not
                 only economic retaliation, intimidation and even
                 murder to deny blacks the right to vote, but also
                 more subtle, but no less effective, means: poll
                 taxes, literacy tests and other Jim Crow laws.
                 A Harvard-educated black man failed his literacy
                 test. Another black man was denied the right to
                 vote when he could not answer the question, "How
                 many bubbles are in a bar of soap?"
                 It is in the light of this experience that I --
                 and millions of others -- watch Florida's
                 struggle to name the winner of this year's
                 presidential election.
                 I do not believe that, heading into the election,
                 there was a concerted effort to deny Americans
                 the right to vote. We are human and make
                 mistakes. We design ballots that confuse voters.
                 Polling equipment breaks down. Polls may not open
                 as scheduled because workers did not show up on
                 time. These irregularities were not limited to
                 Florida; I experienced some of them at my polling
                 place in Atlanta.
                 However, regardless of the intent, these
                 irregularities had the effect of denying people
                 the right to vote. Our Constitution does not
                 reserve this right to Americans who can decipher
                 a confusing ballot. A great nation should not
                 deny the right because a tiny piece of paper
                 stubbornly clings to a ballot. We dishonor the
                 sacrifice of those who fought for this right when
                 we spend countless hours trying to keep a ballot,
                 a vote, a voice, from being heard.
                 Immediately after the elections, analysts told us
                 that this experience would teach us that every
                 vote counts. I fear that the current vote
                 counting teaches us the opposite.
                 If you were confused by a butterfly ballot, your
                 vote does not count. If the military neglected to
                 postmark your absentee ballot, your vote does not
                 count. If your ballot has a dimpled, hanging or
                 pregnant chad, your vote does not count. Unless
                 there are drastic changes in the way votes are
                 being tallied, these are the lessons we will
                 learn in Florida.
                 The makers of the ballot machines have told us
                 that the most accurate way to count the ballots
                 is by hand. So, count them by hand we must, even
                 if it means recounting all six million ballots
                 cast in Florida.
                 We must not allow shrill and frantic voices to
                 drown out the will of the American people. There
                 can be no legitimacy in an election absent the
                 principle of one person, one vote. In an election
                 this close, every vote must count, and every vote
                 must be counted.
                 John Lewis, a Democratic member of the House of
                 Representatives from Georgia, is the author of
                 "Walking With the Wind: A Memoir of the

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : 12/06/00 EST