July 07, 2004

Congresswoman Barbara Lee Joins Members of Congress in Calling for UN Election Monitors for 2004 Presidential Election

Washington, DC – At a press conference this morning on the release of a letter to United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan calling for United Nations election monitors for the 2004 Presidential Election, Congresswoman Barbara Lee made the following comments:

“The intent of our letter is simple: we are asking that the central right of our democracy – or any democracy – be upheld: the right to vote. That seems basic enough. After all, we pride ourselves on being the greatest democracy in the world. We pride ourselves on exporting our democratic beliefs by sending election observers to other parts of the world to ensure that there are free and fair elections. I myself have been privileged to participate in this process: first in South Africa in 1994 during the historic presidential election of Nelson Mandela and in the Nigerian 1999 presidential election.”

“My question is: if we attempt to ensure free and fair elections for other countries, why wouldn’t we do the same for our own elections? Why wouldn’t we want to encourage transparency in our own elections process? As we have been recently reminded by Fahrenheit 9/11, there are very good reasons why we need election monitors. In the 2000 Presidential Election, we saw hundreds of thousands of voters denied their fundamental right to vote. We had voters trying to decipher unreadable and confusing ballots, voters who were intimidated and didn’t make it to the polls, voters who made it to the polls but were denied the right to vote, voters who should have voted but were systematically purged from the rolls as felons.”

“Already, there are signs that we may have similar problems this year. Just last week, The Miami Herald found that more than 2,100 people who were classified as ineligible to vote because of felony records have actually been restored through the state’s clemency process. I know that this report is just the tip of the iceberg, and unless we put in place measures to ensure that there are free and fair elections, including the use of UN monitors, we will once again see hundreds of thousands of people denied this absolutely fundamental right of our democracy. That is unconscionable, and that is a shame.”