“Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me” is an old saying that George W. Bush once bungled in a moment captured on film.

The saying could not be more relevant to this November’s election. If we, the working class, allow ourselves to be fooled and silenced in the face of massive voter fraud, we will be relinquishing our claim to legitimate and fair elections for years to come. This is the time to fight back, or shame on all of us.

The election of 2000 was fraught with voter suppression, the discarding of votes, and a Supreme Court that voted to install a president rather than have votes counted.

It is 2004 now. Here we are again. Will we sit by this time and allow our votes to be thrown away, be uncounted, be manipulated by corporate-owned voting machines that leave no paper trail, and agree to voter suppression in primarily Black and Brown voting precincts? Not if we view the vote as the bedrock of democracy in a representative republic.

It is absolutely fundamental to have all votes counted and no votes suppressed. It’s that simple. Until every vote is counted, there is nothing to concede.

The right wing will tell you that to question the Nov. 2 election is to be a “conspiracy theorist” or a sore loser. “Sore loser” is a catcall better left to sporting events. When democracy itself is at stake, the fight must be to have every vote counted, period.

The catcalls are meant to divert the American people from pursuing electoral justice. As to the charge of being conspiracy theorists, let’s let just a few of the facts speak for themselves, particularly in key battleground states such as Florida and Ohio.

In an article titled “Worse than 2000: Tuesday’s electoral disaster,” William Rivers Pitt of truthout.org writes that Broward County, Fla., election workers were surprised to find out the new voting machines they were using were counting backwards, decreasing votes. The software used in that county’s machines could count only up to 32,000 votes per precinct. When the count reached 32,000, the machine began counting backwards. Where did those votes go?

In one precinct in Franklin County, Ohio, electronic voting machines gave Bush “3,893 extra votes,” according to an article by Bob Fritakis at freepress.org. Bush got 4,258 votes to John Kerry’s 260 votes. The problem is that records show only 638 voters cast ballots for president in that precinct. Where did all those votes for Bush come from?

In primarily Black and working-class areas in Ohio, voters were made to stand in lines for hours at a time. Many were discouraged from voting in the face of the prospect of spending the entire day in the voting line. They had jobs to get to, children to pick up, or other tasks that simply couldn’t wait.

In a number of counties where new voter registrations had surged, county officials actually decreased the number of voting machines, making the logjams inevitable.

In Cincinnati (Hamilton County), Ohio, Fitrakis reports that 105,000 voters were moved from “active” to “inactive” status in the last four years because they hadn’t voted in the last two federal elections. The purge was not required by Ohio law, he writes: “It was an option taken and exercised by the Republican-dominated Hamilton County Board of Elections.”

Blatant voting irregularities and anomalies were also reported in Florida’s Baker and Dixie counties. Based on historical voting patterns, exit polls and the final vote tally, the vote totals don’t add up — in more ways than one. And the problems were not only with touch-screen machines. In the case of Baker County, for example, the questionable results were generated by optical scanning machines.

Fundamental to democracy is the idea that every vote counts. Thousands of reports of voter suppression in primarily Black and Brown precincts go hand in hand with the right wing’s vote theft through electronic rigging. As I indicated in my article, “Who is counting our vote?” last January (PWW, 1/17), the turning over of vote-tabulation to machines and services from private outfits like Election Systems and Software, Diebold, Sequoia Voting Systems, VoteHere and Populex — several with close ties to the Republican Party and leaving no paper trail — poses a mortal threat to democracy.

We have a clear choice. Fight back now or forever be voiceless on life-and-death issues like jobs, health care, war, peace, racism, sexism, and education.

The fightback is beginning in earnest. Be a part of ensuring that our voices are heard and that we know who is counting our votes. Educate yourself by visiting blackboxvoting.org, commondreams.org, truthout.org, freepress.org, and alternet.org. Speak out!

Barbara Jean Hope is a reader in Philadelphia. She can be reached at bjhope215@yahoo.com.