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Congresswoman Cynthia Mckinney Urges Reform of Voting Process at Historic Conference
by Anna Thompson
April 12, 2005

Summary: Georgia Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney adressed the closing of the National Election Reform Conference Saturday, April 9th in Nashville. Congresswoman McKinney is the first black female elected to Congress from the state of Georgia. Elected in 1992, she served five consecutive terms. In 2002 she was the subject of an intense campaign by the Republicans to run her out of office for questions she asked about Bush Administration knowledge of events surrounding September 11th. After a two year hiatus she returned to the public arena and successfully regained her seat. She addressed the National Conference on Election Reform regarding the historical suppression of the black vote and modern attempts at gerrymandering and voter suppression.

"Thank you for coming together and doing this in the South. Most issues that move Americans to act are not happening in the South. When did the Bush administration know about September 11th? I suffered mightily for asking that question. Like you I feel victimized by a system that is slipping away from the grips of the American people. In 1992 I was the first black woman elected to Congress. Soon afterwards, my district was redistricted into a new district that was only 30% black. I was supposed to lose but I didn't, then came September 11th. Republicans came out of the woodwork."

"Now here in the South African Americans have had to grapple with their right to vote in every election. Now African Americans are still angry about what happened in Florida in 2000, but it didn't stop there. In Florida I watched what happened. The same kind of crass effort to stop the vote has happened in Georgia. It happened in my district and across the South."

"In 2004 I had to decide if I was going to run again. The temptation was to be ensconced in the private world amongst people that would agree with me, but I understand that systematic repression of black leaders by the establishment. For me to stay down and not get back up again is not in my nature, and despite my mother's advice I decided to get back into it. Now I can tell you what it is like to have the most powerful forces arrayed against you and still prevail even with electronic voting machines breaking down."

"Before I was ushered out of Washington DC I had met with an African American accountant. He had devised a voting method entitled 'TruVote.' His machine was the kind of machine that you are asking for. It gave you a paper receipt, it generated a randomly generated number and if you called a 1-800 number then a computer would tell you what race you voted in and it gave you the numbers of votes cast in that district and would tell you what offices you voted for. TruVote had the solution. I called Mr Gibbs and I wanted him to go with me to California and demonstrate his machine. Two nights later I heard he had been in an accident in which he perished. He was supposed to go to Ohio to testify and so Avon Gibbs loss is our loss, is America's loss. I hope part of this election reform activism recalls his memory."

"Now in my campaign I had to take scarce campaign dollars and use them to monitor the operation of the machines that are currently in use in Georgia, as well as the interation of the people with these machines. We monitored over 100 precincts and we discovered a host of problems. We got our pollwatchers there before the break of day. Some polling officials were hostile. At the end of the day we had about 200 people dedicated to this task and documented the inadequacies. Now if each of us as a candidate has to take away money just to guarantee the security of the vote, then you can imagine the problems that exist for you the voter."

"We don't know if our elections have been rigged. We need to be concerned about this. The curtain will have to be pulled off the wizard. Mario Savio said 'There comes a time when the machine becomes so odious that you can't take it apart. You have to stop the machine.' All the speakers have been talking about this. It can be done through litigation, legislation, alternative media and other methods. You know me because I have put my body against this machine but even on the inside there is nothing that works like juice on the outside. As Bobby Kennedy said, 'All of you doing these things can erase and knock down the bloodiest walls of repression.' Together we can win."

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