CONGRESSWOMAN McKINNEY EXTREMELY CONCERNED:
"Violations of the Voting Rights Act might be occurring."
November 8, 2000
(DECATUR)-Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney (D-GA) today expressed her concern in a letter to President Clinton and the U.S. Department of Justice surrounding complaints about a newfound black vote suppression method. Widespread reports of too few resources for voting at too many majority black precincts in the 4th Congressional District indicates that serious violations of the Voting Rights Act might be occurring without our knowledge.
We received numerous complaints about having too few boxes and personnel at the black precincts. In addition, widespread practice of assigning two precincts to one small location when larger locations are available is highly suspect. Too many of my constituents left polling places without having voted because they had to return to work or had to provide food for their small children.
One precinct I visited required the voters to stand outside in the weather despite the fact that the complex has huge buildings available for use as polling places. A two-precinct location fiasco occurred where at least 1,000 people having waited at least 5 hours with too few machines. While the other precinct had virtually no voters. Hundreds left without having an opportunity to vote.
"There are complaints in other parts of the State and in other parts of the South. I am concerned that we are seeing a new pattern and practice that has black voter suppression as its intent, McKinney concluded."
Letter to President Clinton
November 9, 2000
The Honorable William Clinton
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, DC 20005
Dear President Clinton:
I am extremely disappointed to have to write this letter to you today. But in light of events in Florida, I think it is important that I bring to your urgent attention, voting difficulties experienced in Georgia's Fourth Congressional District.
In 1996, there was heavy voter turnout in the Fourth Congressional District. I am pleased about that. The heavy turnout was responsible for sending me back to Congress, Max Cleland to the Senate, and you to the White House. However, at that time, voters were forced to wait for hours in order to cast their vote. Too many of them had to stand outside in the weather because the polling place was cramped and too small to accommodate the large number of voters who showed up to cast their vote. People were standing outside and in some cases the lines extended down the street. We all were very proud to have excited the electorate to vote. However, that experience should have alerted the planners of our elections here of the need for adequate facilities for voting; apparently it did not.
We worked very hard this year to encourage all the voters in the district to participate in the November 7th election and as a consequence, there was once again a strong turnout. Regrettably, the electoral process in the Fourth Congressional District was once again marred by exactly the same logistical difficulties as were experienced in 1996, only this year they were worse. From election day continuing to today, my office and the DeKalb County NAACP have received countless phone calls from constituents saying that they experienced excessively long delays in voting, some having to wait as long as four to five hours, and even worse, many said that they had left the polling station without having voted at all. These constituents complained that the polling stations were completely underprepared for the turnout. There were simply too few voting booths, voter lists, and elections personnel at the black precincts in the Fourth Congressional District. In stark contrast, I am told that the polling stations in the northern precincts of the district, which are majority white, moved quickly (in some cases in as little as 15 minutes) and voters did not experience any where near the difficulties experienced by black voters in the southern part of the District.
By way of example, constituents complained that at Stone View precinct, there were at least 1200 people standing in line waiting to vote, but election officials confided that they could process only approximately 100 voters an hour and that at that rate voters would be voting until 8:00 a.m. the following morning. Hundreds of people eventually left the precinct without voting after having waited four to five hours to vote. Additionally, we received complaints that constituents waited as long as four to five hours in line only to be told when they finally arrived at the desk that they were at the wrong precinct and because of the lateness of the hour, they were not going to be able to vote at all.
Tragically, many of the people waiting in line to vote were forced to stand for hours in the rain with infants and young children. One constituent complained that after he had waited for hours to get his ballot form at the front desk, he was not allowed reentry into the building when he left the voting line to check on his small children who were outside. Also, several motor vehicle accidents occurred at polling stations, in large measure I am sure, because of the voting delays leading to traffic congestion at the polls.
In light of the above, I am extremely concerned that a new form of black voter suppression might have been experienced by voters in the Fourth Congressional District, constituting a potential violation of the Voting Rights Act.
Mr. President, I do not want to place blame on any of the innocent election workers whose task it was to service large numbers of voters under severe circumstances. In large measure, they did an admirable job under the circumstances. But the right to vote in this country is sacrosanct and that right should be protected.
I respectfully request your immediate investigation into this matter.
Member of Congress