Republicans Foreclose on Voter Rights

The Republican party chairman in Macomb County, Michigan, probably should have considered his wording when he admitted in an interview that his organization was actively compiling a list of foreclosed homes in order to void voter registration.
According to the newspaper Michigan Messenger, Chairman James Carabelli reportedly stated, “We will have a list of foreclosed homes and will make sure people aren’t voting from those addresses.”
The Michigan Republican party is requesting that the independent newspaper remove the story because they claim the quotes are “fabricated,” despite the reporter’s assertion that they are legitimate. Regardless of what mere words may mean, actions would indicate that whether or not Carabelli admitted to using foreclosures, it wouldn’t be the first time.
Previous Republican tactics point to a recurring pattern of a strategy called “voter caging,” aimed at denying voting rights to citizens. In the registration process, the voters originally register under their home addresses. However, after foreclosure the addresses are deemed incorrect, challenging the status of the voters as residents. The plan is aimed at weeding out voters that are not deemed “true residents.”
However, many residents remain in their homes months after foreclosure is filed, while some are able to renegotiate and remain in their own homes. It is difficult to overlook the fact that the districts that are being targeted for improper registration are often Democratic-leaning, and in the case of Macomb County, mostly African-American.
However, this is not a new tactic. In fact, the Republican party has employed it for the past 50 years, culminating in the 2004 elections, in which half a million individuals had their voting rights challenged. The first Republican attempt to target purported “voter fraud” was in 1958 in order to exploit Reconstruction-era laws and exclude African-Americans. This tactic has been enabled by Republican-controlled legislatures in Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio, which passed legislation making it easier for volunteers to have the discretion to challenge, question and deny voting rights.
However, the spread of the myth of widespread voter fraud has caused the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold an Indiana law requiring voters to present a state-issued I.D.—something that blacks, youths and low-income individuals often do not have. A similar I.D. law in Ohio will probably cause chaos on Election Day as residents arrive with I.D.s containing the addresses of foreclosed homes.
In 1981 and 1986, Democrats sued the voter-caging campaigns in New Jersey with a court ruling in their favor. The ruling stipulated that national parties could not enact voter challenges without the approval of the court. However, the ruling opened a loophole. It did not prevent state officials from taking the same measures. Now the Obama campaign, in conjunction with the Democratic National Committee, is filing a lawsuit in the Michigan Federal Court against the Republican National Committee’s planned caging activities. The charges build upon the argument that homeowners in Michigan still have the opportunity to redeem their homes even after sales have gone through.
Under Michigan law, voters can still use their foreclosed addresses up to 60 days within the election. Even so, foreclosure notices are issued up to one year and four months before the resident is required to leave the home. The Democrats are also arguing that foreclosures pertain to ownership, not residence, which is the subject of dispute. In the meantime, the Obama campaign is requesting an injunction from the federal court to block foreclosure filings that can be used in developing cases for voter challenges.
Thus, the already tedious process of registration and voting has become more complicated, inconvenient and disrespectful for some people. For homeowners dealing with foreclosures in a failing economy, their wish to vote for a candidate to change their economic situation may even be void.
In a nation that claims the government works for the people, it does not always seem that way. Upholding the law is one thing, but taking away an inherent right to vote is another.

Frida Alim is a second-year political science major. She can be reached at aabdelal@uci.edu.