By Kyle Olson
When a family loses their home to foreclosure, they lose so much more than just the house. Now in Michigan, one more thing is being taken from people who have been through foreclosure - the right to vote.
According to the Michigan Messenger, the chairman of the Republican Party in Macomb County, Michigan plans to use a list of foreclosed homes to block people from voting in the November elections.
Michigan is a key swing state and Macomb County is a key swing county in the state.
The Republican Party is making a big effort to challenge some voters' right to cast a ballot. The party is preparing for a comprehensive voter challenge campaign in November.
Party chairman James Carabelli told the Michigan Messenger that it's all above board. The local party just wants to make sure proper electoral procedures are followed.
The party will use the list of foreclosed homes to make sure that people from those addresses do not vote.
It is true that this tactic by the GOP sounds shady, but it could work.
State election rules allow the parties to assign members to the polls to monitor the election. These "election challengers" are generally there to observe the poll workers and to challenge the eligibility of voters that they have a good reason to believe are not eligible to vote.
One of those good reasons is that the voter is not a true resident of the city or township. Voters must be registered in the city or township in which they live. When a voter moves, their voter registration must be updated to reflect their new address in time for the election.
The Republican Party in Michigan plans to use the list of foreclosures to challenge people who have lost their homes as ineligible voters who are not true residents. However, at least one expert says that this may not be legal.
J. Gerald Hebert, a former voting rights litigator for the U.S. Justice Department who now runs the Campaign Legal Center, a Washington D.C.-based public-interest law firm, says that voters cannot be challenged without a factual basis for the challenge.
Herbert notes that a foreclosure notice does not mean that a person no longer lives at that address because people often remain in their homes for quite some time after a foreclosure filing. In some cases, homeowners are able to file bankruptcy or refinance their homes in time to avoid losing the property to foreclosure.
The plan to challenge voters in foreclosure in Macomb County may disproportionately affect African-American voters, many who are Democrats. A report issued last year by the state's Department of Labor and Economic Growth showed that more than 60 percent of all sub-prime loans in Michigan were made to African-American people.
The effort to suppress Democratic voters in foreclosure is not isolated to one county in Michigan. In other areas of the country, the Republican Party is also considering using foreclosure lists to attempt to disqualify voters. Even if this tactic is unsuccessful, it could significantly slow down the voting process and lead to long lines at the polls.