Next week, we're going to talk about a new twist on voting access. The question is whether families who've had their homes foreclosed on should be barred from voting in the districts where they lost their homes.
Eartha Jane Melzer of The Michigan Messenger did an investigative report that is making waves. She tracked local Republican Party officials in Michigan and Ohio — key battleground states — who plan to challenge voters by cross-hatching their information against the (publicly available) list of foreclosures.
The article reads in part:
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."
The article is also provoking a series of opposing comments on its message board. One reads:
Being in foreclosure does not necessarily mean you have moved out of the house. Challenging voters based on foreclosure will result in illegally disenfranchising voters who have not changed their address. It will also gum up the works on election day and increase the length of the lines, which is a GOP tactic intended to discourage voting by people who work two jobs, etc, and don't have the ability to go to the polls in the middle of the day.
An opposing view comes from another person posting to the message board:
Isnt it amazing, all this outrage over vote suppression and voter inconvenience. Where was all this concern when ACORN was signing up dead people in Illinois. They are also currently under investigation here in Ohio for their "registration" campaigns in the inner city.
To some on this blog who claim people shouold be able to vote anywhere as long as they are registered, That is not permitted for two reasons. One, it eliminates (or tries to) people from voting multiple times...another fine Chicago tradition. Two, there are more items on the ballot than the Presidency. How would you like outsiders voting on your school levies, congressmen and local issues? That would also happen if you lose control of the system.
Follow the friggin rules, it's not that tough.
The Obama campaign is expected to respond to this debate ... when and how remains to be seen.
We expect to cover this more in the coming days.