Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Lose Your House, Lose Your Vote

Unprecedented voter registration brings with it unprecedented vote suppression.

This, from the Michigan Messenger:

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.

According to the report, State election rules allow parties to assign “election challengers” to polls who may challenge the eligibility of any voter provided they “have a good reason to believe” is uneligable to vote.

One allowable reason is that the person is not a “true resident of the city or township.”

What's sadly unsurprising is how the McCain campaign is directly tied to this particularly unsavory brand of vote supression.

Stay with me here:

The Macomb GOP’s plans are another indication of how John McCain’s campaign stands to benefit from the burgeoning number of foreclosures in the state. McCain’s regional headquarters are housed in the office building of foreclosure specialists Trott & Trott. The firm’s founder, David A. Trott, has raised between $100,000 and $250,000 for the Republican nominee.

Connect the dots. A major contributor to the McCain campaign, a foreclosure specialist, is not only housing the campaign headquarters, but is also furnishing it a list of foreclosers to use against Macomb County voters.

The Macomb County party’s plans to challenge voters who have defaulted on their house payments is likely to disproportionately affect African-Americans who are overwhelmingly Democratic voters. More than 60 percent of all sub-prime loans — the most likely kind of loan to go into default — were made to African-Americans in Michigan, according to a report issued last year by the state’s Department of Labor and Economic Growth........

According to voter challenge directives handed down by Republican Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land, voter challenges need only be “based on information obtained through a reliable source or means.”

“But poll workers are not allowed to ask the reason” for the challenges, Joe Rozell, director of elections for Oakland County in suburban Detroit said. In other words, Republican vote challengers are free to use foreclosure lists as a basis for disqualifying otherwise eligible voters.

But this isn't just an isolated case in Michigan. Reports are surfacing that this will be a widespread tactic of the GOP in many key swing states:

In Ohio, Doug Preisse, director of elections in Franklin County (around the city of Columbus) and the chair of the local GOP, told The Columbus Dispatch that he has not ruled out challenging voters before the election due to foreclosure-related address issues.

Hebert, the voting-rights lawyer, sees a connection between Priesse’s remarks and Carabelli’s plans.

“At a minimum what you are seeing is a fairly comprehensive effort by the Republican Party, a systematic broad-based effort to put up obstacles for people to vote,” he said. “Nobody is contending that these people are not legally registered to vote.

“When you are comprehensively challenging people to vote,” Hebert went on, “your goals are two-fold: One is you are trying to knock people out from casting ballots; the other is to create a slowdown that will discourage others,” who see a long line and realize they can’t afford to stay and wait.

Folks, we don't have to take this lying down. We can get to work.

If anyone out there reading this is a lawyer, paralegal, or law student, we need your help. Contact

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