Michigan foreclosure vote suppression scheme

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In September, 2008, stories emerged that the Michigan Republican party was using lists of foreclosed homes to remove people from the voter roles, particularly in minority districts.

The scheme

In September, 2008, there are reports from multiple sources that the Michigan Republican party was preparing an attempt to disenfranchise (mostly black) voters whose houses have been foreclosed, saying they no longer live at that address and therefore are not qualified to vote.[1]

Efforts to stop the scheme

On September 16, 2008, the Obama campaign sued to stop the voter caging scheme.[2] The Republican Party denied that they intended to use the lists for that purposes, and on October 20, 2008 the two sides settled the case and issued a joint statement affirming that an address appearing on foreclosure lists did not constitute a valid reason for removal of voters from that address. Joint Statement from all Parties in Maletski et. al. vs. Macomb County Republican Party et. al. Regarding Joint Settlement


  • In a settlement of a lawsuit seeking to prevent Michigan Republicans from using foreclosure lists to challenge voters, the Republicans admitted the existence of the scheme. From a settlement statement by the Michigan Democratic Party[3],

"The settlement acknowledges the existence of an illegal scheme by the Republicans to use mortgage foreclosure lists to deny foreclosure victims their right to vote."

In late September, 2008, the Justice Department said it would "monitor closely" the caging reports.[4]

Articles and resources

See also


  1. Stories about Michigan foreclosure voter disenfranchisement scheme include Dems File Injunction Against MI GOP 'Vote Caging' Plan For Voters Whose Homes Were Foreclosed, Brad Blog, September 16, 2008., Lose your house, lose your vote, Michigan Messenger, September 10, 2008. Obama campaign sues Michigan GOP over voter challenges, Steven Rosenfeld, AlterNet, September 16, 2008.
  2. emptywheel, "Michigan Dems and the Obama Campaign Sue for Foreclosure-Related Vote-Caging,", Firedoglake, September 16, 2008.
  3. Marcy Wheeler, "MI Republicans Admit to Illegal Foreclosure Scheme, “Surrender” to Democrats,", Emptywheel, October 20, 2008.
  4. Jonathan E. Kaplan, DOJ says it is monitoring Michigan GOP, Michigan Messenger, September 24, 2008.

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External articles

"Under one voter removal program, the Michigan Department of State, which administers both driver's license and voter registration records, immediately cancels the voter registrations of Michigan voters who obtain driver's licenses in other states instead of issuing the appropriate confirmation of registration notices and following the required voter removal procedures mandated by the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA). According to the Department's own estimations, over 280,000 voters per year are removed from the rolls in this manner. Under the second voter removal program, a Michigan state law requires local clerks to nullify the registrations of newly-registered voters whenever their original voter identification cards are returned by the post office as undeliverable. Detroit elections officials report that nearly 30,000 voters per year in that city alone are removed from the rolls as a result of this state election law, which violates the NVRA and other federal and state laws. The NVRA permits voters to remain on the voter rolls for at least two federal elections after voter registration cards are returned."

"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."

"“It is actually a very smart thing to do,” he went on, “particularly in this climate with so many foreclosures.”

For Republicans, he said, targeting the foreclosures would be a cost-effective and “probably” legal method of reducing Democratic votes.

If he were still in the election business, he said, “I’d be doing that all day long.”

"The U.S. Justice Department will “continue to monitor closely” reports that a Michigan Republican Party official planned to use home foreclosure lists to challenge voters’ eligibility on Election Day.

“If those allegations were true, it would be a concern to us in the Civil Rights Division,” Grace Chung Becker, the acting assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, told lawmakers at a joint hearing of the House Judiciary and Administration Committees on Wednesday.

Becker also informed lawmakers that criminal prosecutors from the Justice Department would not monitor polling stations."

The foreclosure crisis could do considerable damage to the nation’s voting system. More than a million people have lost their homes in the past two years. And because voter registration is based on people’s residences, they could face politically motivated challenges at the polls. [. . .] It has been a long time since there were property requirements for voting. Election officials must not impose them now, by disenfranchising people because they have lost, or are losing, their homes.