JEFFERSON CITY - While the battle for the White House may be galvanizing the country, it failed to draw much of a crowd for a Missouri NAACP rally on the steps of the statehouse Monday.
Just eight members of Missouri branches of the organization attended the event to demand that "every vote be counted" in Florida.
"We're few in number, but our message is out in the community," said Mary Ratliff, president of both the NAACP's Columbia branch and the state conference.
Ratliff offered several explanations for the sparse attendance, including the funeral of a prominent member of the black community in Jefferson City and lack of publicity.
Earlier, Ratliff said clergy would be attending the rally, but none showed up. However, she said her group's efforts are being supported by clergy throughout the state who are circulating a petition asking Attorney General Janet Reno and the U.S. Justice Department "to take the lead in assuring that all votes cast in Florida be counted."
Speakers at the rally stressed the importance of a correct vote count, saying their actions were not attempts to help a certain candidate win but attempts to uphold the integrity of the U.S. Constitution.
The speakers also complained about St. Louis City, where Democrats attempted to keep the polls open past the 7 p.m. legal closing time. A lower court had ordered the polls kept open until 10 p.m., but that decision quickly was overturned on appeal after less than an hour and the polls were closed.
"We send representatives to other countries to make sure that they have fair elections and yet, here in the United States, we close the polls," said James Morgan, president of the St. Louis branch of the NAACP. "Right here in the state of Missouri, the polls were closed in St. Louis to deny people the right to vote."
But Republican leaders in Missouri contend that the only illegal thing that occurred in St. Louis polling places on Nov. 7 was they remained open past the set closing time.
Speakers at Monday's rally also said the NAACP is nonpartisan and no matter what the results of the election, their organization will support the new president of the United States. But they said they think it is necessary to get an accurate count of the votes if the "rightfully, legally elected" candidate is to win office.
"We all love a peaceful country," Ratliff said. "But if there is no justice, we can assure you there will be no peace in this country."