Thursday, January 06, 2005

Profiles In Courage

The new year 2005 has opened with a United States Senator and a U.S. Congressperson proving themselves to be profiles in courage. They are Senator Barbara Boxer, of California, and Representative Stephanie Tubbs Jones, of Ohio.

One of the odd and actually shameful facts about democracy in the United States is that voting procedures vary widely throughout the country, and are under the control of local officials. The latter would not be a problem if there were national standards for national elections. But there never have been.

This means that through incompetence or as a result of fraudulent behavior local officials can affect who can vote, how easy it is to vote, and even the counting of votes. We can only trust that this has not often been a problem, but we know historically that it sometimes has been.

Few avenues exist for protesting voting procedures that are deemed unfair or dishonest. One such avenue is that after presidential elections, the Congress must meet and vote to accept the result. But one Senator and one Congressperson, together, can call for a debate prior to such a vote. Before January 6, 2005 this had happened only once in history.

Congressional protocol is to keep quiet about the election process, once it is over. It takes great courage, even a kind of crazy courage, to disturb this protocol, and that is what was displayed today. So kudos to Senator Boxer and to Representative Tubbs Jones. Their courage to speak will make no difference today, but for the long term future may be the spark that leads to reforms that ensure fair, free and trustworthy elections.

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