Obama Campaign Takes Legal Action Against Voter Suppression Tactics in Michigan

I heard about this through a mailing list I’m on, and I’m glad to see that team Obama is fighting it. Basically, what’s happening is that Republican officials are using lists of foreclosed homes to challenge voters at the polls. The technique is called “caging,” and Republicans have been doing it for years.

The story about the use of this tactic in Michigan was broken by The Michigan Messenger on September 10:

The chairman of the Republican Party in Macomb County, Michigan, a key swing county in a key swing state, is planning to use a list of foreclosed homes to block people from voting in the upcoming election as part of the state GOP’s effort to challenge some voters on Election Day.

“We will have a list of foreclosed homes and will make sure people aren’t voting from those addresses,” party chairman James Carabelli told Michigan Messenger in a telephone interview earlier this week. He said the local party wanted to make sure that proper electoral procedures were followed.

State election rules allow parties to assign “election challengers” to polls to monitor the election. In addition to observing the poll workers, these volunteers can challenge the eligibility of any voter provided they “have a good reason to believe” that the person is not eligible to vote. One allowable reason is that the person is not a “true resident of the city or township.”

The Michigan Republicans’ planned use of foreclosure lists is apparently an attempt to challenge ineligible voters as not being “true residents.”

One expert questioned the legality of the tactic.

“You can’t challenge people without a factual basis for doing so,” said J. Gerald Hebert, a former voting rights litigator for the U.S. Justice Department who now runs the Campaign Legal Center, a Washington D.C.-based public-interest law firm. “I don’t think a foreclosure notice is sufficient basis for a challenge, because people often remain in their homes after foreclosure begins and sometimes are able to negotiate and refinance.”

In other words, you don’t lose your voting rights when you lose your home.

Carabelli is now denying he told the Messenger that he said anything about using foreclosures to turn voters away.

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