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Jesse Jackson: Kerry’s “Early Concession Betrayed the Trust of the Voters”

StoryNovember 30, 2004
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As voter fraud in Ukraine’s election dominates the headlines, we take a look at the U.S. election and the widespread reports of voter irregularities in Ohio. We speak with the Rev. Jesse Jackson who is calling for an Ohio recount and an attorney filing a lawsuit in the Ohio Supreme Court this week to contest the election. [includes rush transcript]

We turn now to election news: Democracy Now co-host Juan Gonzalez writes in today’s New York Daily News:

“Voter fraud in the Ukraine? Give me a break.

“It has been a month now and we still don’t have a clear count of the votes for our own presidential race from the state of Ohio.

“For those who may have forgotten, Ohio supposedly assured George W. Bush a second term in the White House–only the most important job on the planet.

“The morning after the election, we were told Bush was ahead of John Kerry in that state’s unofficial count by 139,000 votes, or 2.5%.

“At the time there were 155,000 uncounted provisional ballots and an unknown number of overseas ballots, but Kerry concluded they would not produce enough of a margin to erase his deficit, so he promptly conceded.

“At the same time, given the bitter Democratic memories of the 2000 Florida fiasco, he assured his supporters he would fight to have every vote properly counted this time.

“Within a few days, other problems began to show up in Ohio’s preliminary tally.”

  • Rev. Jesse Jackson, civil rights leader. He is the founder of the Rainbow/PUSH coalition, a progressive organization fighting for social change. This past Sunday, he appeared at a rally of over 500 in Columbus to publicly endorse a presidential recount in Ohio. Jackson’s Rainbow Push Coalition has now joined with the Green and Libertarian Parties in demanding the recount.
  • Cliff Arnebeck, public interest lawyer who is filing a lawsuit in the Ohio Supreme Court this week contesting the election. He is co-chair of the Alliance for Democracy and Chairman of the Legal Affairs Committee of Common Cause in Ohio.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Reverend Jesse Jackson, what have you been doing in Ohio? Why do you feel that a recount could change the outcome of the presidential election?

JESSE JACKSON: Well, this is November 30 — 28 days later and the election has not been certified. The judge will not order a recount because there has not yet been a count. Therefore, we need a full and thorough federal investigation. For example, in the spring of the year, a provisional ballot, you could vote any place in the county. By September, by November, Secretary of State had shifted it to you only vote in the precinct, and with some precincts changing, it created big frustrations. So 155,000 ballots haven’t still been counted. There are many thousands not yet processed — overcount and undercount. You have a case in Warren, Ohio where they declared a Homeland Security alert. I mean no building in Warren is over three stories high, yet they locked out the press and independent observers. Another case that I found to be astounding which I am sure Cliff can talk about, is a black woman, Ellen Connally ran for state Supreme Court judge. In Cuyahoga County, in Cleveland where she is best known, Kerry got 170,000 more votes. Elsewhere in the state, around Hamilton County, Cincinnati, Butler, Clermont, where she is least well-known, she got 190,000 more votes than Kerry. Now, that smells. We need a thorough investigation with forensic computer experts to see were there any tampering in those machines where there’s no ability to do an audit trail. Then we need to consider the recount. We first need to have a count.

AMY GOODMAN: I am looking at Juan Gonzalez’s piece. This may coincide with what you are talking about. He says in the fourth ward on Cleveland’s east side, two fringe presidential candidates did surprisingly well. In precinct 4F located at Benedictine High School, Martin Luther King Drive, Kerry received 293 votes, Bush 21. Michael Perutka, the candidate for the ultra-conservative Anti-immigrant Constitutional Party, an amazing 215 votes. That many black votes for Perutka is about as likely as all those Jewish votes for Buchanan in Florida’s Palm Beach County in 2000. He says in virtually all the precincts that he looked at, Kerry’s vote was lower than Al Gore’s in 2000 even though there was a record turnout in the black community this time and even though blacks voted overwhelmingly for Kerry. Cliff Arnebeck, can you explain further what this pattern is? Is it a pattern?

CLIFF ARNEBECK: Yes, there’s a pattern of extensive irregularity in the Ohio election. And in contrast to the conventional election count that’s going on now, we have exit polls which are conducted by news organizations, hiring professionals using scientific methods to count the votes and those exit polls showed Kerry winning the Ohio election. So, when you compare those exit polls with the counting that’s been going on through this partisan process, it seems pretty clear that we have a serious issue here about who won this election. And the conclusion, drawn on the day after the election, that Mr. Bush won the election, is very much in doubt.

AMY GOODMAN: Reverend Jackson, Democracy Now! just went to Spain and Italy and on one of the main TV stations called RAI in Rome, the interviewer asked about the election and I said, “Well, really we don’t really know who won.” And his eyebrows raised very high and he said, “Excuse me. Kerry conceded. Haven’t you heard?” Now what about this, Reverend Jackson? What about Kerry immediately conceding?

JESSE JACKSON: The early concession betrayed the trust of the voters. We have a moral obligation and a legal obligation to see that every vote counts and whether Kerry gets the most votes or not, we must break a precedent of fraudulent elections. For the Secretary of the State, in fact, can be the co-chair of a campaign and run the process — that’s like a team owner of a baseball team being the umpire at game seven of the World Series. You can’t be a team owner and be a referee at the same time. You can’t have Katherine Harris and Ken Blackwell as chairs of the campaign and in charge of the process. It taints the credibility of the process at the very beginning.

AMY GOODMAN: What about the $51 million that John Kerry has? The largest amount of money a presidential candidate has had after an election. He’s not in the red, he’s in the black. The biggest amount of money any presidential candidate has had in history, well over half what George Bush has. He could use that money for a recount. Instead — the poor Green Party is raising the money.

JESSE JACKSON: You could take a couple million dollars of that money and hire Cliff Arnebeck’s law firm and partners and the Common Cause lawyers who are credible and bright and able lawyers. You could you take a couple million dollars and put a renewed light on Ohio. That can determine not only the outcome of this election but the future of democratic elections. We have to go beyond this matter. We really need, which we do not have, we need the Constitutional right to vote for President federally protected. We do not have the Constitutional right to vote for President. We only have the state’s right to vote. We asked 50 state separate and unequal elections within those states, Ohio for example, 88 counties, each running their own scheme. We must now go to another level. Not only should we count these votes, we need an amendment to the Constitution. We need — all Americans need the Constitutional, individual right, federally protected right to vote for the President.

AMY GOODMAN: Reverend Jackson, have you talked to John Kerry about this?

JESSE JACKSON: I did talk with him about the election and he first thanked us for our continued effort, but will not take a public position, nor offer any resources at this time, substantial resources to help make it happen. So we are doing it on our will.

AMY GOODMAN: So what’s he doing with his $51 million?

JESSE JACKSON: I do not know. It make think so much that when the reason [inaudible] those that are fighting: the Greens, the Libertarians, and those who have found common ground. Dr. King got the Nobel Peace Prize and Lyndon Johnson gave King a White House reception. He said, “I thank you very much for the reception, but all Americans need the right to vote.” Johnson said, “Dr. King, I like you very much. You know I do, I like you. I regard you highly. But I can’t render the right to vote unilaterally, I just can’t. I wish could, but I can’t. The bad news is that Congress can, but won’t. So you can’t have the right to vote.” So the President talked, so we went to Selma, the common people rose up. And there again, the common people must rise up and demand that their vote count. So to me, this campaign in Ohio is not so much about Kerry as it is about Fannie Lou Hamer. It’s about Medgar Evers. It’s about Schwerner, Goodman, and Chaney. It’s about the people’s will to democracy. If people can fight [inaudible] for democracy in the Ukraine, we can do that here.

AMY GOODMAN: Thank you very much for being with us.

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