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Alabama 2002/Florida 2000: Moving On Again - Have We Learned Nothing?
By Monica Friedlander

On Nov. 18, almost two weeks after the Nov. 5 elections, Alabama's Democratic Governor Don Siegelman dropped his request for a recount and conceded the state's top office to Republican Bob Riley. Only two-tenths of one percent out of 1.36 million votes cast separated the candidates -- that after the election had first been called for the Democrat. Deja vu? You bet. Alabama 2002 is an eerie rerun of Florida 2000 -- minus the outrage.

On election night, Siegelman was declared the winner. The next morning, a few thousand votes disappeared from his column. A computer error, the GOP says. Perhaps. Perhaps not. Republicans invoked an ancient state law to prevent a recount and asked the courts to freeze the results. The will of the people was, most likely, overruled yet again. And as a German saying goes, "Gott schweigt" -- God is silent. And so is the entire mainstream press.

More alarming, however, is the lack of outrage on activist lists and websites about a stolen election at such a high level. The news is at best buried even in the most liberal online journals, news bulletins, and other publications. Some don't carry it at all. Have we taken complete leave of our senses?

But wait, many will say: There are other critical issues that need our full attention: the Homeland Security bill, the Iraq war, the appointment of conservative judges. Indeed, very important issues. Vitally important. But would any of them have existed had someone prevented the stealing of the election in 2000?

Maybe we could do nothing about it then. But if we ignore it again now and don't show any outrage, we invite more of the same in 2004. And next time, it will have been our fault.

What is more sacred in the end than the right to vote? Isn't this the most fundamental tenet of a democratic society? And what can possibly be worse than to have the will of the people, as expressed at the ballot box, overturned? Had America not "moved on" in 2000, like the Republicans told us to do and the country dutifully obeyed, none of the horrors of this administration would have been possible.

Have we learned nothing -- as a society, and as political activists?

Last but not least, Governor Siegelman himself aided and abetted the GOP by conceding the election without exhausting all legal recourse. He did so, he explained, "for the good of Alabama." What good is that? How can it benefit a state to have the vote of the electorate ignored? By telling his own constituents that it's better for Alabama to have the people's votes voided than to put the state through a few weeks of legal battles, he belittled the sacredness of the right to vote. He, like all of us who choose not to make this battle a priority, told the GOP that it's OKAY to steal elections.

One can only wonder what pressures Governor Siegelman might have been under to voluntarily give up without putting up a full-fledged fight. We can only speculate -- about his reasons, or about the results themselves. For there is a big difference between Florida 2000 and Alabama 2002. In 2000, no one in their right mind thought Bush won Florida's electoral votes. In the case of Alabama, we have good reason to be suspicious, but we will never know for sure.

Unlike the debacle of two years ago, where Gore votes were stolen and prevented from being cast in broad daylight, here we're in the dark. Why did those votes switch between election night and the time the Republican was declared the victor? Could it be as simple as a computer glitch? Maybe so. But then why are they afraid to recount? And why are we unwilling to put the spotlight on Alabama -- and find out?

If we ignore another stolen election this year, we invite another Florida in 2004. By comparison, all other issues pale. For our ability to influence policy in the absence of the candidates that we elected is nil.