having a chat with him about this issue.
Project Vote Denounces GOP Plans to Foreclose on the Voting Rights of Low-Income Michigan Residents
September 11, 2008
WASHINGTON — The Michigan GOP has announced plans to use a list of housing foreclosures as the basis for a broad voter-caging operation, as reported yesterday by Eartha Jane Melzer in The Michigan Messenger. James Carabelli, chairman of the Republican Party in Macomb County, Michigan, has announced plans to assign “election challengers” to polling places to question the eligibility of home foreclosure victims based on residency. “We will have a list of foreclosed homes and will make sure people aren’t voting from those addresses,” Carabelli told the Messenger.
Today Teresa James, attorney for the voting rights organization Project Vote, and author of the 2007 report Caging Democracy: A 50-Year History of Partisan Challenges to Minority Voters, issued the following statement in response: The Macomb County GOP’s plan is a cynical partisan attempt to suppress the vote of thousands of low-income and African-American voters, a replay of the 2004 threats of mass challenges. Just because you’re behind on your mortgage doesn’t mean you lose the right to vote. All a foreclosure filing tells anyone is that the owners are behind on their mortgage; it does not mean a voter has necessarily moved. Foreclosures take time. And even if the plan is to only challenge voters whose homes have actually been sold at auction, the challengers will still achieve nothing but to slow-down voting and create an intimidating atmosphere at strategically chosen polls.
Michigan law says that challenges may be made at the polls if the challenger “knows or has good reason to suspect” a voter is ineligible. The Michigan Secretary of State has clarified this to require that challenges should be based on “reliable sources or means.” Republican challengers with only a list of foreclosure notices will have NO evidence or reliable source to suggest that eligible voters have moved and are no longer eligible to vote.
This is just the latest — and most transparent — in a long history of racially and politically motivated GOP attacks against Michigan voters, designed to suppress votes by disenfranchising individual voters and creating confusion and delays at the polls. In 1999, right-wing volunteers in Hamtramck, Michigan systematically challenged the citizenship of voters with dark skin and Arabic-sounding names. In 2004 and 2006, Republicans reportedly recruited thousands of paid challengers to disrupt predominantly African-American precincts. “If we do not suppress the Detroit vote,” a GOP state representative was quoted as saying in 2004, “we’re going to have a tough time in this election cycle.” As the Messenger reports, Macomb County is in the top three-percent of counties in the U.S. hit hardest by the foreclosure crisis — and African-Americans, as the primary victims of sub-prime lending practices, make up the majority of these cases. African-Americans also tend to vote democratic, which is why it’s not surprising that the GOP would target these voters for suppression.
Regardless of politics, no one faced with the possibility of losing their home should also have to lose their vote. Project Vote is writing to ask Michigan Secretary of State, Republican Terri Lynn Land, to instruct election officials that someone’s presence on a list of foreclosure notices is not a legitimate basis for challenging that individual’s right to vote. Project Vote will also send letters to both major parties, reviewing the acceptable criteria for voter challenges under Michigan law, and if necessary will file lawsuits on behalf of disenfranchised voters.
In America you get to vote even if you’re behind on your bills. All Americans — particularly those members of the community hit hardest by the economic crisis — deserve a voice and a vote on Election Day.
Source / CNBC
Thanks to Diane Stirling-Stevens / The Rag Blog
This seems rather specious — even if a home has been foreclosed on, couldn’t voters still be legally registered there? Most states allow at least 30 days to change addresses on a driver’s licence, and even if you miss that “deadline”, you don’t lose your right to vote. I know that I have voted in the past at precincts I’d recently moved from, and at which I was still registered.
However, simply by publicizing these plans, a chilling effect will have been launched against folks whose homes have been lost. Will they want to show up at their precinct, where some people may already know what’s happened to them, and have it shouted out by Republican poll watchers?
In addition to this chilling effect, such announcements — such as last week’s by Travis County, TX Republican leaders that they “intend to take back” three state legislative seats here — must necessarily be met with plans to counter them, thus potentially diverting volunteers, staff time, and resources away from the national campaign.
This is outrageous. And if it happens in Michigan, it will certainly happen in other states.
We must fight back. Progressive Future has a great action page posted where you can write to Michigan’s Secretary of State, Terri Lynne Land, and tell her that this kind of interference with the basic right to vote is unacceptable, and that you expect her to say so—publicly. Just click here.