DNC Chairman Gov. Howard Dean
Introducing "Democracy at Risk" Report
June 22, 2005

[prepared remarks]

Last December the DNC announced a comprehensive investigative study of election administration issues arising in the 2004 Presidential election in Ohio.

The purpose of this study was not to challenge the results of the election. It was to understand and analyze thoroughly the problems that had reportedly prevented many Ohio citizens from being able to vote and to have their votes counted, in order to develop a solid factual basis for advocating further reforms in our election system.

I want to thank Voting Rights Institute Chair Donna Brazile and the members of the investigative team for their very thorough, outstanding, and important work. This exercise is not about reliving the past. It is about what we can do going forward to ensure that we keep the promise that every American should have the opportunity to vote and to have that vote counted. Our democracy depends on American's having confidence that their voices will be heard when they cast their ballot.

This report is an important first step. We assembled a first-rate team of political scientists, election experts from leading academic institutions, voting machine technology experts, pollsters, and people who had worked on the ground in Ohio, to examine these issues. Donna will introduce them to you in a few minutes.

Today we are here to announce the results of their investigation. Donna and her team will talk in just a moment about the specifics of the report and the way the study was conducted, but I want to make a couple of key points.

The results show that our election system failed the citizens of Ohio in 2004, and in particular failed African Americans, new registrants, younger voters and voters in places using touch screen machines.

More than a quarter of all Ohio voters reported problems with their voting experience.

Twice as many African American voters as white voters reported experiencing problems at the polls.

Voters experienced incredibly long lines, some waiting as much as 8 hours. And African American voters reported waiting about twice as often.

Nearly one quarter of all Ohio voters reported that their experience in 2004 has made them less confident about the reliability of elections in Ohio. And no wonder.

This is not right. This is not the American way, and it's not good for our democracy when our citizens don't have confidence that their voice is being heard.

Now this study focused on Ohio, but the truth is there was anecdotal evidence from around the country, that raised serious questions about the way elections are being conducted.

But we are not here to talk about the past -- we are here to talk about where we go from here. We need to repair and restructure the way we conduct elections in this country, in some fundamental ways.

This report is an important first step, we now have the factual basis and a series of 23 concrete recommendations to review and study to determine how we can work with elected officials at all levels, community leaders, activists and citizens, to ensure that that the right to vote and to have that vote counted -- the right that is the bedrock of our democracy, that protects all other rights -- becomes a reality for all Americans.

I'll be studying the report and putting together an action plan that we will present at our next DNC meeting in September, '05. The Democratic Party is committed to ensuring that we move forward from today, ready to do the work required to reform the way elections are conducted, and to ensure that we restore American's confidence in our election system.

But I also want to encourage the Republican Party to review the report -- this is not about one party, this is about protecting our democracy.

I now ask Donna Brazile and her team to discuss our findings and recommendations in more detail.