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Camryn Hansen
Camryn Hansen
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Federal Judge Upholds Voters’ Rights in Michigan Following GOP Scandal over Foreclosed Homes

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On Monday, US District Judge Stephen Murphy III ordered state election officials to immediately stop canceling the registrations of new voters whose voter cards were returned by the post office as undeliverable.

According to Murphy, purging voters from the register for undeliverable addresses is illegal, and the 1,438 people in Michigan who have had their names removed for this reason since January 1 will have them restored well in time for the November Presidential election.

Murphy added that the practice of unregistering people who apply for driver’s licenses in other states—a practice currently in use in Michigan—is also illegal, but that the possibility of restoring more than 200,000 names to the register, when probably only a handful of them were unjustly removed, “would risk grave harm to the public interest by permitting a large number of ineligible voters to vote.”

The judge’s decision arrives on the heels of another heated Michigan voter registration fraud/controversy-turned-lawsuit(s) which began in September, when the Michigan Messenger reported that GOP election officials were planning to challenge the state residency, and accordingly, the right to vote, of up to 62,000 voters who had recently lost their homes to foreclosure:

“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. – Eartha Jane Melzer, michiganmessenger.com.

To combat the sleazy GOP move, Barack Obama promptly filed suit against the Macomb County Republican Party, the Michigan Republican Party and the Republican National Committee, seeking a court order recognizing foreclosed individuals as a “class action,” as well as a "temporary, preliminary and/or permanent order prohibiting the Defendants…from challenging Michigan voters on the basis of the presence of particular property on a listing of foreclosure filings."

"This ‘lose your home, lose your vote’ program is part of a broader scheme—misnamed an ‘election integrity’ program—to harass voters and suppress the vote throughout the State of Michigan in the upcoming election," the campaign’s lawsuit said. "Republicans stated in the press that they are taking overt steps, including the acquisition or preparation of lists of homes subject to foreclosure proceedings and public announcement—that is, the beginning of the suppression effort—to accomplish their voter suppression goals."

The same day Obama filed suit, Macomb County GOP chairman Carabelli denied having revealed any such plans to Michigan Messenger journalists.

"This story is not true. The Michigan Messenger made it up. Let me state, again and unequivocally, there is no such plan to use foreclosure lists to challenge voters, and I never said there was. This is a story line being pushed by one liberal blog, the (Barack) Obama campaign, and their friends and operatives on the left."

The Michigan Republican Party has since filed a defamation suit against the Michigan Messenger, who still stands by its story.

For years, voting rights attorneys have voiced criticism of Michigan’s Republican Secretary of State, Terri Lynn Land, for purging individuals from voter rolls in violation of the National Voter Registration Act, which governs how voter lists are maintained.

Michael Steinberg, legal director of the Michigan ACLU, said he was pleased by Murphy’s decision to uphold voters’ rights this week.

“We are thrilled that thousands of voters who were illegally removed from voter rolls will be able to vote in November’s historic presidential election,” Steinberg said. “Disenfranchisement undermines our democracy and today’s opinion restores some confidence in our electoral system.”

A clean election this time around would no doubt restore still more.