Saturday, August 4, 2007

Howard Dean on voting and democracy

The video can be found here.

You know, this is an extraordinary conference--1400 people--I think the people that organized this really deserve a huge hand. Thank you very very much. (Applause.) And next year I have it on good authority there are going to be 2000 people--that'll be even better!

Let me just thank you, mostly, not just for coming to the conference, but thank you for what you've been doing. I want to spend a little time talking about the net and about a program that we're doing. But first, I will say this: what you have done in the last six years is to set this country on the path of restoring the democracy that George Bush and the Republicans have tried to undermine. (Applause and cheers) and I thank you for that enormously.

That's a long haul, because there's a lot to be done. And I want to talk about a project that we just announced today. The fifty state strategy and all that has been a lot of fun, and you all have been fantastic in defending what we're doing, and I appreciate that. But there's a lot of stuff that goes on in the DNC that doesn't get in the papers, or barely gets in the papers, and I want to share one of those things because a lot of the work that we do is piece by piece and bit by bit. It takes a long time to put folks out of power who have entrenched themselves the way that the right wing has.

And, next week marks the 42nd anniversary of the signing of the Voting Rights Act. But, as you know, the Republicans believe that the fewer votes are cast, the more likely it is to benefit them. And we believe that the more votes are cast, the better it is for the United States of America. (Applause.) We're the party that actually believes there is something more important than our party, and that is our country.

So, over the last 30 years or so, we've seen roadblocks and outright attacks on the right to vote, all kinds of schemes, restrictive voter ID laws, phone jamming, voter purging, voter intimidation tactics. Manipulating the mission of the Department of Justice who fired United States Attorneys who refused to pursue phony voter fraud cases. Turning the Civil Rights Division into the "voter suppression division". We can do better than this, and we will do better than this! (Applause.)

The right wing of the Republican party believes in talking about their "values"--evidently democracy is not one of them. It is a value of the Democratic party. (Applause.) So, we want everybody to be able to vote. And there's a bunch of things we've done. But, for the first time, we're going to try to do this prospectively instead of after the fact. As you know, we have paid staffers in all fifty states, and, in every single one of those states over the next couple of months--we started about three weeks ago--we are going to go to every single county election official, in charge of every single precinct in America, and find out how they run their elections. How they assign voter machines, to which precincts, what they do about voter ID, if it's required in their state. What they do about vote by mail, what they do about early voting, what they do about absentee voting. How do they do voter registration, do they have centralized voter databases.

The reason for this is, we know that election laws are written at the state and federal level, but they are often subject to interpretation at the local level, which creates a lot of variation around the country in terms of how they're run. Now, we know about the corruption that the Republicans have used, particularly in the state of Ohio and Florida and some other places like that in order to suppress votes. But a lot of the problems in voting in this country are not because of Republican corruption. It's simply because of underresourced folks at the local level, and undertrained folks at the local level. And we're going to put together a handbook for every single candidate on the Democratic side that will tell us in advance where the problems are going to be in terms of voting, so we can plan how to deal with those ten months before the election, not ten weeks or ten days before the election. (Applause.)

And the reason we're going to do this is, voting is the fundamental act in every democracy that is required to maintain a democracy, and we want everyone in America to vote. Because the fact of the matter is, voting is good for America. It also happens to be very good for the Democratic party--the more people vote, the better it is for America, but the better it is for us as well.

We also need your help. There are about 1400 people in this room. I would really appreciate it if you would you out yourselves, and get a whole lot of folks who pay attention to what you have to say and do on the net, and launch an effort aimed at every single congressman to get a voting machine right bill passed that is going to get rid of DREs by the year 2008, so that we can have ballots that will actually be counted in 2008, and stop fooling around delaying. We need that bill now! (Applause.) And we need a good bill now. And there is no group of people in America that can do this better than you. Not one group of people in America will have more influence on this bill than you do. So we need your help in Washington. The bill is stalled, it needs to be improved, and it needs to pass now so that it can have an effect in 2008. Two thousand ten could be too late. So--I think it's H811. H811. So, write your congresspeople, and write your friends and tell them to write your congresspeople.