Wednesday, December 29, 2004

''Alert: Electile Dysfunction."

Group holds fast to Kerry cause with Beacon Hill vigil
By Donovan Slack, Globe Staff | December 29, 2004

The election is long over. A new year is starting, and even most of the more ardent liberals are moving on. But in Louisburg Square this week, one determined group isn't quite ready to let go. About a half dozen supporters of John Kerry are holding vigil in front of his house, still hoping for a Kerry presidency.

The little knot of demonstrators, calling themselves the Coalition Against Election Fraud, stood shivering in the cold yesterday, hoisting signs and pressing fliers into the hands of bewildered passersby. Taxi drivers, neighbors digging cars out of the snow, and Beacon Hill residents who happened to be strolling by were subjected to earnest pleas to join the cause.

''Who knows? Maybe we'll overturn the election," said Sheila Parks, a vigil organizer.

Parks said the group believes the election was fixed and wants to persuade the Massachusetts senator to oppose congressional approval of the electoral college results Jan. 6. That would set in motion the process of questioning George W. Bush's victory in November. Such a challenge has never been successful, and nobody in Washington expects one now.

For his part, Kerry has said he's satisfied that the American people got their way in the election. He said he would file court papers in support of a recount effort in Ohio, but has said his only interest is ensuring confidence in the election process.

In any case, Kerry wasn't home to take notice of yesterday's demonstrators. A woman answered the door and promised to deliver a message when he returns from vacation at the end of January. Kerry has been in Ketchum, Idaho, for several weeks, and he plans to go to the Middle East for the first two weeks of January.

In a statement, a Kerry spokesman praised the tenacity of the group camped out on his doorstep yesterday.

''You meet a lot of inspirational people who took this campaign into their hearts," spokesman David Wade said. ''They keep their bumper stickers on their cars because they're proud of the fight they fought. John Kerry's campaign touched a chord with millions of Americans, and so many people want the fight to continue. . . . The campaign's ended, but the values we share are worth fighting for."

Parks and her coalition, many of whom worked feverishly on the Kerry campaign, are part of a larger phenomenon since the 2000 presidential election, specialists say. The ballot debacle that year in Florida has helped fuel conspiracy theories and given groups like Parks's a new cause.

''I'm sure that the Dukakis people in 1988 were as heartbroken as the Kerry people are now, but you didn't see this stuff happening," said Elaine C. Kamarck, a lecturer in public policy at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government and a researcher of 21st century government and the role of the Internet in political campaigns.

Kamarck said that while overturning the election is a far-fetched hope, small grass-roots groups might have a role in reforming the voting process.

''While I don't think that much is going to come of this, I'm actually frankly happy they are doing it," Kamarck said. ''It puts a lot of pressure on election administrators, secretaries of state, to fix this system. If we are going to be in an era of very, very close elections for a while, then we've got to have a better electoral system."

Parks, who years ago legally changed her surname to that of the famed civil rights activist Rosa Parks, plans to take her group to Washington, D.C., next week to push her cause. In the meantime, the Coalition Against Election Fraud will spend an hour each day in front of Kerry's house in Boston, lamenting the attention that's been paid to national elections in the Ukraine and waving signs that say, ''Senator Kerry: Please Fight for Ohio" and ''Alert: electile dysfunction."



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