BREAKING: Obama campaign files suit over ‘vote caging’ plot

More news on a GOP voter disenfranchisement plot from our sister site, Michigan Messenger.

The Obama campaign and the Democratic National Committee have filed a lawsuit in federal court in Michigan over the Michigan GOP’s plan to use foreclosure lists to challenge voters at the polls, as first reported by the Michigan Messenger.

Bob Bauer, general counsel for the Obama campaign, and Mark Brewer, chairman of the Michigan Democratic Party, announced the lawsuit in a conference call with reporters this afternoon. It was filed on behalf of the campaign, the party and three Michigan residents who have had their houses foreclosed upon in recent months.

Bauer called the GOP plan to use foreclosure lists “a new and especially repellent version of caging.” Caging is a technique of challenging voters where they take lists of addresses, mail to them with a “do not forward” marking and if for whatever reason those mailings are returned, they use this as a basis for claiming that the voter no longer lives at the address at which they are registered.

Bauer noted that using foreclosure lists to challenge a voter’s address is “false and illegal” for several reasons. First, because getting a foreclosure notice is not evidence that the person’s address has changed. In Michigan, homeowners have the opportunity to redeem the foreclosure even after a sheriff’s sale has occurred, which means they can stay in the home for many months after a foreclosure notice has been sent. Second, because under Michigan law a person can vote at their old precinct if they lost their home within 60 days of the election.

Brewer noted that in July alone 11,000 Michigan residents received foreclosure notices. The McCain campaign, he argued, “wants to add insult to injury” by denying those residents their right to vote. “The right to vote is one of our most fundamental rights as Americans,” said Brewer, “To try to strip our fellow citizens of their right to vote is un-American and unconscionable.”

Last week, James Carabelli, chairman of the Macomb County GOP, told the Messenger’s Eartha Melzer in a phone interview: “We will have a list of foreclosed homes and will make sure people aren’t voting from those addresses.” The Michigan Republican Party has denied that Carabelli made the statements that the Michigan Messenger reported, but Bauer said that the complaint includes quotes from Republican operatives in Ohio and other states saying much the same thing Carabelli said and defending the legitimacy of using foreclosure lists and voter caging techniques.

Bauer also said that they expect that the lawsuit will allow them to subpoena emails and memos from the state and local GOP officials that will prove that they had obtained foreclosure lists and were planning to use them for this purpose.

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Ed Brayton

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