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Kerry urges citizens to defend their voting rights

By Matt Viser, Boston Globe   |  April 11, 2005

Returning to the room where he gave his concession speech at the end of the bitter 2004 presidential campaign, Senator John F. Kerry yesterday said citizens must take more responsibility for their right to vote even when obstacles are placed in their way.
''Last year too many people were denied their right to vote; too many who tried to vote were intimidated," the Massachusetts Democrat said in a keynote address during a League of Women Voters event at Faneuil Hall.

''There is no magic wand. No one person is going to stand up and suddenly say it's going to change tomorrow. You have to do that."

Kerry declined to take questions after his address but as he was exiting the room a woman peppered him with questions about why he decided not to challenge the vote tally in Ohio, where a Kerry win could have swayed the election. Democrats have argued that problems on Election Day, which included long lines and a shortage of voting machines in predominantly minority neighborhoods, prevented some from voting.

''There was no smoking gun," Kerry told the questioner.

''Believe me, if there was, I would have been the first to challenge it."

During his talk at the event, titled ''Making Democracy Work: Lessons Learned From the Presidential Election," Kerry did not directly address his failed bid for the presidency. Instead, he focused on several challenges he thinks the country must tackle.

''We're going out and selling democracy in Iraq, in Afghanistan, and other countries in the world we need to get in the business of making our own democracy a lot better," Kerry said.

Most of Kerry's 17-minute address echoed the issues that he brought up in his stump speeches. He said the United States was too dependent on foreign oil and needed to find other sources of energy. He said the income level for the average American is too low and healthcare should be more affordable.

''Here we are the richest country on the face of the planet, and we struggle to provide healthcare for children," he said. ''But we don't hesitate to give the richest people in America another tax cut."

Still, Kerry seemed more at ease yesterday than he was on the campaign trail, where he was sometimes criticized for his stiff demeanor. To mild laughter, he said the ''forces that seem to make decisions" in Washington are ''wacky."

He hobbled into the room on crutches, still recovering from arthroscopic surgery to repair cartilage in his knee. Wearing a suit and hiking boots, he joked about ''counting the days" until he can stop using the crutches.

Kerry has not ruled out another run for the presidency in 2008; some political strategists have speculated that he is remaking his image for another campaign. Speaking on CNN recently, Kerry dismissed the talk as ''unbelievably premature."

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