John Oxendine and the "Mentally Retarded Registered Voters"

John Oxendine, Repubilcan candidate for Governor in Georgia, tells everyone he voted for Ronald Reagan. He wants us all to know just how much of a Republican he has always been. Even when he was a Democrat, Oxendine voted Republican. That’s what he says. Except, like Oxendine’s pro-life position and every other position he has that doesn’t involve an exchange of money, it’s a lie.Oxendine was an active and committed democrat prior to changing his registration to run for office in 1993. He received appointments to various boards and commissions through governor Joe Frank Harris. Oxendine had worked on the campaigns of democrat candidates. His wife Lee was attorney for the state democrat party. In 1988, Oxendine sought election as a delegate for presidential candidate Al Gore. He did not win. As part of his effort to win, he brought “about 40 mentally retarded registered voters” to the caucus in buses. Many others took exception to Oxendine’s actions.


A North Georgia lawyer bused about 40 mentally retarded registered voters to Saturday’s elections of Democratic presidential delegates in hopes of getting their support.Now some observers of the 9th Congressional District caucuses are charging that the attorney, John Oxendine, exploited the residents of Annandale at Suwanee Inc. They say the moderately handicapped adults had trouble completing their registration forms and had to be assisted in filling out their ballots. “The problem that I had and I think other people from all over the 9th Congressional District had was that this was an abuse of people,” said Stephen Farrow, a Dalton lawyer who was elected as a delegate for Sen. Albert Gore Jr. of Tennessee. “Everyone was, I think you can fairly say, appalled and repulsed by the events that took place.” . . . “The problem that I had with it is they had to vote for them, do their voting,” said Carlton Harris, who attended the caucus.

SOURCE: Jane Hanson, “Exploitation charged after Ga. Lawyer buses retarded to elections,” Atlanta Constitution, February 5, 1988. Oxendine cooperated with two other delegate candidates. The daughter of one of Oxendine’s allies was observed helping the mentally retarded fill out their ballots. Oxendine also served as the attorney for the facility where these individuals lived. Oxendine rejected all criticism. He was being a good citizen.


“The thought that we exploited them really offends me, . . . All of them can take care of themselves. And they’re very active in politics. They were excited about this because in politics they’re equal to other citizens.”. . . .Oxendine brought the handicapped adults to the caucus to support his candidacy as a Gore delegate to the Democratic National Convention. He said the residents know and like him and he was merely campaigning among his natural constituents.

SOURCE: Jane Hanson, “Exploitation charged after Ga. Lawyer buses retarded to elections,” Atlanta Constitution, February 5, 1988 The voting rights of mentally challenged but not mentally incompetent people is a difficult issue. Their participation is to be admired, but undue efforts to influence them are deplorable. Oxendine’s efforts to round them up on buses and transport them to the caucus while his allies help them fill out their ballots seems questionable. It can certainly be portrayed as an effort to take advantage of impressionable individuals. As an isolated incident from more than 20 years ago, this may be easily dismissed. It remains a valuable example of Oxendine’s character and judgment. As a part of Oxendine’s long and flamboyant political career, it becomes another indication that Oxendine lacks the integrity to be governor.




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