November 3, 2006

Commentary:

MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD ON NOV. 7th

By U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer

On November 7th, each of us will have a chance to exercise a fundamental right that lies at the center of our democracy and our identity as a nation – the right to vote. Throughout history, from the Revolutionary War to the Civil Rights Movement, Americans have fought and died for the right to make their voices heard at the ballot box.

When we go to the polls this Tuesday, we will choose our state and local leaders, as well as U.S. Representatives and Senators who will determine the very direction of our nation.

This election comes at a critical time: Will we continue an endless war in Iraq, or decide on a plan to bring our troops home? Will we raise the minimum wage? Will we make healthcare more affordable? And will we work to protect our environment?

Whatever your views, you can only make them heard if you exercise your right to vote and if that vote is counted accurately.

Electronic touch-screen machines will be used in approximately 32 states this year, accounting for about 40% of all votes cast that day. Voters are increasingly concerned that their votes will not be counted, and with good reason. Across the country, we have heard reports of problems with electronic machines—from the 100,000 additional votes recorded in Texas this past March, to the fact that software discs with proprietary source code for electronic voting machines were somehow delivered to a former state legislator in Maryland.

Because of these concerns, I introduced legislation with Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut and Rep. Rush Holt of New Jersey to reimburse jurisdictions for the cost of providing paper ballots as a back-up plan for voters. The plan was objected to by Republicans in the Senate.

Fortunately, in California, any voter who is uncomfortable with using a touch-screen voting machine can ask to use a paper ballot instead. All you have to do is ask for a paper ballot at your polling place – it is your right.

Knowing all your rights as a voter is also critical to protecting yourself from deceptive and despicable acts, such as the letter sent recently to Hispanic residents in Orange County, which outrageously claimed that immigrants who are citizens cannot vote and may be deported if they try. This claim is 100 percent false. The requirements to vote in California are that you must be: (1) a United States citizen; (2) a resident of California; (3) 18 years of age by the date of the election; (4) not in prison or on parole for a felony conviction; (5) not judged by a court to be incompetent to vote; and (6) registered to vote prior to 15 days before the election.

Regardless of your party affiliation, regardless of your political views, I encourage you to exercise your most precious right to vote on November 7th, and make your voice heard as we determine the future of our nation.

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