Defeated Georgia Democrat sues for new election against Senate leader

Democrat Sabrina McKenzie is suing for a new election after her narrow loss in the May primary to state Senate Minority Leader Steve Henson. Courtesy photos.

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A defeated state Senate candidate is suing DeKalb County elections officials over her loss to the Senate Democratic leader, alleging that people were allowed to vote in the race in at least one precinct after state law requires polls to close.

Sabrina McKenzie, an ordained minister who teaches liturgical dance, also alleges that some voters got the wrong ballots and she questioned the number of provisional ballots counted. She is asking the court to call for a new election.

McKenzie is challenging her narrow loss to Senate Minority Leader Steve Henson in the May primary, which she lost by 111 votes, according to official results from the Secretary of State's Office. A recount requested by McKenzie in June upheld the May result.

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McKenzie is suing the DeKalb County Board of Voter Registration and Elections and its director, Erica Hamilton, as well as Henson and Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who is in charge of overseeing the state’s elections.

All have asked for the case to be dismissed.

Four days after filing the complaint on McKenzie’s behalf, her attorneys, Jerry Wilson and Wayne Kendall, asked the court to remove them from the case. McKenzie said she has hired a new attorney, but she declined to comment further.

In her suit, McKenzie alleges that “upon information and belief” at least one polling location allowed voters in the building after 7 p.m., when the polls are scheduled to close. She alleges that “at least two” voting machines were programmed with the wrong ballots, and she questioned why only 23 provisional ballots were counted in the results for a county with 36 precincts.

In calling for the case to be dismissed, lawyers for Hampton, Henson and Kemp each argued that McKenzie did not file her petition within the statute of limitations — five days after the results were certified on May 25.

In his request for a judge to dismiss the case, Henson’s lawyer, Scott Holcomb, said the senator has no knowledge of validity of McKenzie’s claims and should not be included in the suit.

“This case has no merit. Period,” Holcomb told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Holcomb serves in the state House of Representatives.

Henson has served in the Senate for 24 years, first spending eight years in the chamber before leaving in 1998 to run unsuccessfully for labor commissioner. The Stone Mountain resident returned in 2002 and has been the Senate’s Democratic leader since 2011.

No hearing has been set in the case. If the case is not resolved before November, Henson will automatically win the general election and return to the Senate next year since no Republican is running in the contest.

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