The View from Stephanie Tubbs Jones’ Turf
| August 25, 2008
It’s a strange truth that national and international news somehow looks different, up close. So I found it to be upon waking up in Ohio last week, where I happened to be working, the morning following the untimely death of Democratic Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones, 58, from a massive brain aneurysm.
What was especially strange, from my vantage point here, was reading the following headline in the Akron Beacon Journal: “President mourns legislator.”
I’m sure that Mr. Bush made all the appropriate comments that he was expected to make, and in all the ways one would expect him to make them, but the efforts to mythologize and construct a sense of national “unity” in our time of shared, nonpartisan grief just doesn’t ring true to these ears. Not this time.
It was Tubbs Jones, after all, who forced a debate on the House floor in early 2005, in protest of what she saw as Bush’s ill-gotten 2004 presidential election victory against John Kerry. Together with Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and just a few others, the congresswoman from Ohio must have felt herself virtually alone in Washington in her attempts to publicize electoral irregularities in the mostly Democratic precincts of her state.
Some even called her refusal to certify Bush’s re-election “childish.”
But here’s what is not disputed: Bush won Ohio in 2004 by just 119,000 votes. In Columbus some voters had to wait up to 10 hours to vote. Some 15,000 left the polls in frustration without ever casting ballots, according to reports from The Washington Post. In Youngstown, Ohio, reported the Post, 25 electronic machines were found to have transferred “an unknown number of Kerry votes to Bush.” A fact that hits especially hard when you pass through Youngstown’s downtrodden streets in person, among African Americans for whom the word “disenfranchised” must be remarkably visceral.
Then the same day, I came across a much smaller item in Ohio news—one that surely would have escaped my attention had I been at home in New York.
The item was this: Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner announced that poll workers would no longer be allowed to take voting machines home for several days prior to the November elections. Yes, they took them home. Brunner has decided that the so-called “sleepovers”—which had been common practice for the convenience of the poll workers in 24 Ohio counties previously—pose a risk for election fraud.
It was one, small, local victory for Tubbs Jones and her constituents; one giant step for democracy.