McKinney Calls Black Body Politic 'Near Comatose'

Rep. Cynthia McKinney, in her first public appearance since losing her re-election bid last week, said Tuesday that the black community needs to oppose electronic voting machines, which she warned can be used to steal elections.

McKinney also said the state of Georgia should prohibit crossover voting among political parties in primary elections and end its system of runoff elections.

The fiery Democratic congresswoman, who scuffled with a Capitol Hill police officer earlier this year and has accused the Bush administration of having advance knowledge of the Sept. 11 attacks, said she considers herself a "black political paramedic," and the "black body politic is near comatose."

McKinney made the remarks during the National Dialogue and Revival for Social Justice in the Black Church, sponsored by the Rev. Al Sharpton's group, the National Action Network. The Augusta crowd, estimated at fewer than 200 people, gave her a standing ovation when she was introduced and again when she finished speaking.

Last week McKinney lost her bid for a seventh term in Congress. Hank Johnson, a former DeKalb County commissioner, defeated her 59 percent to 41 percent in the Democratic runoff. Johnson, like McKinney, is black, and so are most people in the suburban Atlanta district.

In her concession speech on election night, McKinney blamed her defeat on the news media and electronic voting machines. She continued to criticize both Tuesday.

"You won't know who won as long as we have those electronic voting machines, with the problems that have been manifested by them," she said, criticizing Georgia officials for not requiring that paper records be kept of all votes.

She also blamed her loss in part on Republican crossover voting. She said open primaries — where voters can choose to vote in either party's primary election, regardless of how they are registered — should not be allowed.

McKinney also charged that Georgia's system of runoff elections, where winners must always receive more than 50 percent of the vote, violates the Voting Rights Act.

As for the media, she said: "What I have learned from the corporate media is that they are there to protect the status quo. They are there to protect the powers that be, and anyone who becomes a threat in any kind of way by providing information that will go directly to the survival of the community, to the uplifting of the people, will become an enemy."

Black churches, she said, need to act as an alternative source of information.

She refused to answer reporters' questions after her speech. A woman in McKinney's entourage got between the representative and a reporter. A male bodyguard said McKinney would not take questions.