Project Vote Call to Protect the Votes of Americans Facing Foreclosure
By Project Vote
October 14, 2008
The economic crisis now looms as the most
important issue in the upcoming election, but there are concerns that
partisan forces may be afraid to hear what those hit hardest by the
downturn have to say at the polls. Recent reports in several states
have indicated that partisan operatives are considering challenging the
right to vote of Americans who have lost, or are at risk of losing,
their homes to foreclosure.
Today the voting rights group Project Vote sent letters
to both major political parties in 10 states—AZ, CO, FL, GA, MO, NC,
NM, NV, PA, and VA—urging them to "oppose and refrain from" using lists
of home foreclosures as the basis for "voter caging" operations.
Project Vote also sent letters to secretaries of state in each of these
states, outlining existing state and federal legal protections for
voters, and urging election officials to "take all lawful steps" to
protect foreclosure victims and other Americans from being
disenfranchised based solely on returned mail or residency challenges.
"Losing your home doesn't mean you lose your right to vote," says Project Vote Attorney Teresa James, who is the author of the Caging Democracy: A 50-Year History of Partisan Challenges to Minority Voters.
"Challenging every voter whose residence was or is being foreclosed
upon would serve no purpose but to interfere with the orderly conduct
of the election and intimidate those voters who are not aware of their
legal options under the law."
In the letters, James clarifies
that a change of address for any reason—including losing one's home to
foreclosure—does not always disqualify an individual from voting under
state and federal laws. Appearance on a foreclosure listing does not
necessarily mean that a person has moved, but even voters who are no
longer at their previous address are protected.
of whether the intent is to limit the challenges to those who have
actually been foreclosed or to indiscriminately challenge anyone who
votes from an address that is in foreclosure," the letters say,
"…eligible voters who have changed addresses, regardless of whether
they are or not in foreclosure, may cast their votes on Election Day."
letters cite the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) of 1993, which
says that a person who has moved from one address to another may vote
at her former polling place and update the registration at that time.
Additionally, the letters summarize the protections offered by state
law, which in many cases also permit updating one's address at the
In the letters to the parties, James points out that "those who conduct such mass challenges could face criminal penalties."
letters were sent in response to reports in several states of plans to
use foreclosure lists and other residency challenges for voter caging
lists. In September, the Michigan Messenger
quoted Macomb County GOP Chairman James Carabelli as saying that the
GOP had "a list of foreclosed homes and will make sure people aren't
voting from those addresses." (Mr. Carabelli later denied that the GOP
had any such plans.) Earlier this summer the problem was also discussed
in the Columbus Dispatch,
where Franklin County GOP Chairman Doug Preisse said that he would not
rule out challenges. Kevin DeWine, deputy chairman of the Ohio
Republican Party, has been quoted as saying "nothing is off the table" in terms of election tactics.
letters follow similar letters Project Vote sent to Michigan and Ohio
in September. On Sept. 24, Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner
issued a directive
to boards of elections advising them that the fact a voter is involved
in a foreclosure action is not sufficient, on its own, to sustain a
voter registration challenge. "Ohioans faced with the pain and turmoil
of a home foreclosure should not be targeted by the forces of
disenfranchisement on Election Day," Brunner said in her directive. "I
have taken steps today to make sure eligible voters fighting to keep
their homes don't lose their right to vote."
"In America you
get to vote even if you're behind on your bills," James said. "Today
Project Vote is asking both political parties to foreswear this latest
twist on the cynical partisan tactic known as voter caging, and we are
calling on Secretaries of State to follow Secretary Brunner's example
and take decisive action to protect the rights of voters from attack.
Americans—particularly those members of the community hit hardest by
the economic crisis—deserve a voice and a vote on Election Day," said
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