Georgia GOP Voters Say They Were Threatened With Jail, Fines

By Michael L. Betsch | July 7, 2008 | 8:29 PM EDT

( - The bitter Democratic primary tussle in Georgia's 4th Congressional District took a bizarre turn Monday night with Republicans and Independents reporting that they received telephone calls threatening them with fines and prison if they crossed over and voted in Tuesday's Democratic primary.

The race between Rep. Cynthia McKinney and her Democratic challenger Denise Majette has attracted national attention because of McKinney's controversial comments related to the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and because of an organized effort by opponents of McKinney to get Republicans to cross over and vote for Majette in Tuesday's primary.

Republican and Independent voters in DeKalb County, Ga. reported receiving recorded messages Monday night from an unidentified source warning of possible imprisonment or fines if they voted in the Democratic primary.

Crossover voting is not illegal in Georgia, contrary to the warning contained in the mysterious message. In fact, it is expected that nearly one-third of Republicans in Georgia's 4th District will use their votes to try to oust McKinney rather than casting them in the GOP primary.

Kevin Jones, an Independent voter with Republican leanings, resides in McKinney's district and told that he received the recorded message Monday evening.

"It was very misleading," Jones said of the "authoritarian" and "stern" voice that stated, "Official notice to Republican voters about voting in the Democratic primary."

He said the message warned recipients, "Do not risk violating the law by trying to vote in a Democratic primary without proper documentation."

"Of course, it didn't say what those documents are," Jones said. "I assume they were talking about a driver's license."

Further, Jones said the message "blurted out" an official Georgia state website address that would define what qualifies as the so-called proper documents. However, he doubts anyone was quick enough to write down or remember the address given.

Jones said the message's originator should be prosecuted for potentially misleading and scaring voters away from the polls.

"Personally, I think that it's no different than somebody standing outside a voting booth preventing people from voting," Jones said. "This really is kind of ... misleading and putting a fear into a person who may not have the ability to think otherwise or may not have the background to rationalize what was being said."

Jones admitted the telephone message that threatened fines and imprisonment made him think twice about his plans to vote in the Democratic primary.

"I thought, well, I'm not a registered Republican," Jones said. "I started thinking about the implications of [voting in the primary]."

Dana Mott, a spokesperson for McKinney's campaign, denied any knowledge of the phone calls.

"We certainly do not know who had anything to do with that and we did not have anything to do with it," Mott said.

Chrissy Noonan, a spokeswoman for the Democratic Party of Georgia offered no comment to other than to acknowledge reports that the telephone calls did occur Monday night.

E-mail a news tip to Michael L. Betsch.

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Intra-Party Slugfests Define Georgia Primary