Lawsuit Challenges McKinney
by Joe Taglieri,
Nov. 1, 2002, 17:30 PST (FTW) -- Voters
in Georgia's 4th Congressional District filed a federal
lawsuit Oct. 4 that disputes Rep. Cynthia McKinney's defeat
to Denise Majette in the Aug. 20 Democratic primary.
The suit's court filing contends the central
issue in the case is that Republicans carried out an organized
effort which resulted in "malicious crossover voting,"
where a disproportionate amount of Republicans from DeKalb
and south Gwinnett counties voted in the Democratic primary.
Georgia uses an "open" or "blanket"
primary system, where voters have a choice as to which
party's race they participate in.
However, the plaintiffs' lead counsel J.M.
Raffauf said, "The issue here is whether there was
what we call a malicious crossover. That is, put the blanket
open primary aside, can one party interfere in another
party's primary? This is the first time that I've ever
known there to be a planned crossover, or a crossover
that was promoted by people of the opposing party."
Raffauf's complaint, filed in U.S. District
Court in Atlanta, cites the Voting Rights Act of 1965,
the 14th and 15th amendments to the Constitution, and
a recent Supreme Court decision as the legal basis for
In 2000, the Supreme Court with a 7-2 decision
stuck down a California proposition that established an
open primary system. The court held the state's open primary
for that election year was illegal and unconstitutional,
"permitting nonparty members to hijack the party."
Defendants named in the suit are the Georgia
and DeKalb Republican parties, the Georgia Democratic
Party, Majette, Georgia Secretary of State Cathy Cox,
and the DeKalb and Gwinnett election supervisors.
Republican strategist Mark Davis candidly
admits to organizing a crossover effort for the 4th District
race . But according to Georgia law, he said, there was
nothing illegal about it.
"Number one, it's an open primary
state, and there's absolutely nothing illegal or immoral
about choosing which primary you want to cast your vote
in," said Davis. "What's good for the goose
is good for the gander, you really can't have it both
Davis claimed Majette's victory over five
term incumbent McKinney was indeed largely the result
of his and other Republicans' organized effort promoting
the crossover vote. According to Davis' analysis of the
race, nearly 24,000 crossover votes were cast for Majette,
who topped McKinney by 19,554 votes overall.
McKinney won 61 percent of Democratic votes
totaling 49,058. More than 50 percent of Majette's 68,612-vote
total came from Republicans or registered Democrats who
tend to vote Republican.
Another key component to the lawsuit is
the allegation that election results indicate a "racially
polarized bloc vote." The court filing states, "The
result was that the white bloc vote, of both Republicans
and Democrats, in the Democratic primary greatly diluted
the black Democratic vote, rendering it impotent."
Theresa Roseboro, an attorney representing
Majette, said Georgia's election system has been approved
by the Justice Department, so "the system that Georgia
has of inviting people to come to the polls and select
the ballot of the party that they would like to vote in
for purposes of that election cycle absolutely does not
violate the Voting Rights Act."
Responding to the suit's charge of racial
polarization, Davis said, "How can you claim that
we were behaving like racists when we crossed over to
vote for another black female?" According to Davis,
voters chose between Majette, "a moderate who was
educated at Duke and at Yale," and McKinney,
"a whacko liberal who was educated at UC Berkeley."
But Linda Dubose, one of five black voters
from the 4th District listed as a plaintiff in the suit,
said McKinney's defeat had the effect of disenfranchising
blacks. "The result of the primary is that our candidate
will not be on the ballot," she said. "And there's
something wrong with that because we, the Democratic voters
of the 4th Congressional District, chose Cynthia McKinney,
and yet she's not going to be on the ballot."
Dale Ranta, the DeKalb GOP chairman, echoed
Davis' "what's good for the goose" comment,
saying Democrats have crossed over into Republican primaries
for decades. He also said the DeKalb and Georgia Republican
parties never officially promoted crossover for the 4th
"Our message had been throughout the
time before the primary for all Republicans to vote in
the Republican primary," said Ranta, "We've
been on television, on radio, and in print form saying
exactly that same message. Maybe if Ms. McKinney spent
more time keeping all of her constituents happy, she wouldn't
have had that problem," said Ranta.
In addition to Republican culpability in
the alleged sabotage of the Democratic primary, Dubose
also pointed a finger at the Georgia Democratic Party.
"The Democratic Party didn't decide to step up to
the plate and stand for itself, to stand for the fact
that the party has been violated," she said. "We're
not hearing any outcry from anybody except black voters
from the 4th District as individuals. I don't know why
there isn't a greater concern all the way up through the
entire party because if the Republicans can do it once,
they can do it again.
"We don't need to think that the Republicans
like us. They haven't in the past, and they don't now.
That's not what happened," Dubose continued. "They
were shrewd. And there's something wrong with the system
that allows their shrewdness to cost me my vote."
Raffauf surmised the suit will be resolved
sometime next year, and depositions will likely begin
The suit seeks permanent injunctions against
the Aug. 20 election and its certification by Georgia's
secretary of state. It also requests that the crossover
votes be declared "unconstitutional and invalid and
McKinney declared the winner."
The court filing also lists a request "to
enjoin the Nov. 5 general election until this case is
resolved," but Raffauf said he will not attempt to
prevent this election from taking place.
want a primary vote where the Democrats of the 4th District
pick their candidate," said Raffauf. "By legislation,
by court order, by a new election, however we need to
reach that end, that's what we want."