John Kerry: Every vote counts - and every vote must be counted

From a speech at the Unity 2004 Conference in Washington DC, by the Democratic candidate for the US presidency

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Thirty nine years ago, when Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law, he said: "Every American citizen must have an equal right to vote. Yet the harsh fact is that in many places in this country, men and women are kept from voting simply because they are Negroes."

Thirty nine years ago, when Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law, he said: "Every American citizen must have an equal right to vote. Yet the harsh fact is that in many places in this country, men and women are kept from voting simply because they are Negroes."

My friends, the harsh fact now is that in the last election more than one million African-Americans were disenfranchised in one of the most tainted elections in history. We can do better - and we have to. We have to see to it in November that every vote counts - and every vote is counted.

Along with shared opportunity we must also demand shared responsibility. And we owe it to all the people who follow the law to hold accountable those who don't.

That begins with having a president who tells the truth to the American people. It means staying vigilant to ensure that every American company plays by the rules and does right by its workers and customers. And it means giving young people alternatives to gangs and gang violence by first sending them a strong message that the violence must stop, and if it doesn't, police and prosecutors will hold them accountable, period. But second, by sending young people a strong, clear message that there is another path, and if they are willing to take that path, we will be there with them - with job training, job opportunities, and drug treatment.

Shared opportunity. Shared responsibility. That is how we make our country stronger and bring real hope, real help and real opportunity to all Americans.

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