My Beautiful Wickedness

Heartbreaking and probably illegal
September 10, 2008, 9:42 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

or, from the “you only have to slow down the line so much that everyone else gives up and goes home or has to go to work” playbook…

Alert reader nm points out this article, recapping the Michigan GOP’s plan to challenge every voter that has been subject to a foreclosure notice. Foreclosure notices (Lis Pendens for you legal types) are public records and it is convenient, is it not, that the McCain regional headquarters are rented to them by the foreclosure law firm Trott & Trott. In Macomb County’s GOP party chair James Carbelli plans to train election challengers to challenge any voter they suspect isn’t a “true resident.” This is in keeping with the statewide plan to create easy-to-use spreadsheets and running trainings for those eager to deny (or merely impede and make inconvenient) votes to citizens. Ohio GOP officials (particularly in Franklin, Cuyahoga, Summit, and Mahoning Counties, where Obama’s running strong) also plan to challenge on the basis of foreclosure. Poll workers, according to Michigan law, are not permitted to ask the reason why the challenge is being brought – only to ask if there’s a “reliable” information. While legal experts agree that this kind of vote challenge is probably illegal (because a foreclosure notice is not an eviction, nor does it necessarily lead to one leaving one’s home — homeowners frequently will delay moving in hopes of refinancing), it really won’t matter if it can’t be sorted out on Election Day itself.

Election officials are aware that this is going to create a huge problem, long lines, prohibitively long waits, and will definitely work to deter voting among those who would not face challenge. Looking around at other sources, it doesn’t appear that the GOP Secretary of State Teri Land plans to appoint more election judges to handle what will surely be significant numbers of challenge ballots in a timely manner. Instead, you will stand in a long line for the chance to be humiliated by a stranger when you assert your wish to vote, then sent to another long line to plead for your rights as a citizen. As one voting-rights lawyer puts it:

“At a minimum what you are seeing is a fairly comprehensive effort by the Republican Party, a systematic broad-based effort to put up obstacles for people to vote,” he said. “Nobody is contending that these people are not legally registered to vote.

“When you are comprehensively challenging people to vote,” Hebert went on, “your goals are two-fold: One is you are trying to knock people out from casting ballots; the other is to create a slowdown that will discourage others,” who see a long line and realize they can’t afford to stay and wait.”

In case the racial politics are not apparent to you yet, let me spell it out: most of the sub-prime loans in Michigan and Ohio went to African-Americans. 60% of the foreclosures are on homes owned by African-Americans. African-Americans in Ohio and Michigan overwhelmingly vote Democratic and have been registering in record numbers. In some counties in Michigan, we’re talking about 1 in every 176 homes per month. As many as two thousand families lose their homes in some counties every month.


5 Comments so far
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I get what you’re saying. What I don’t get is why isn’t somebody, who actually has some power to keep this from happening, doing something about it. Are ALL of the state officials (and Ohio’s federal politicians) Bushbots or do they just not give a shit?

Comment by democommie

It’s an example of how to use the law to produce a result that would otherwise be illegal. It’s illegal to engage in voter intimidation, especially if it’s targeted against minority voters. However, it’s perfectly legal to stick your thumbs under your suspenders and make sure that everyone is voting in the right place — even if it has the practical effect of intimidating voters and driving black voters away from the polls. They can, rightly, say that they aren’t actually denying anyone the right to vote — these people are all legally registered and if they can jump through sufficient hoops and prove their identity and care to be humiliated a couple of times, they can probably go on and vote. However, the GOP can, in the process of following certain laws to the letter, produce an effect that would be otherwise illegal. They want to slow things down so much that the people who really want to vote for Obama will not be able to do so.

Disgusting, ain’t it?

Comment by bridgett

The remedy is broadly informing the public that this is happening and it’s going to happen on an unprecedented scale. However, merely the announcement of a threat is already going to have a depressant effect among populations with a history of disenfranchisement. Gonna have to organize the GOTV and make getting to and staying at the polls a point of historical pride. I don’t envy the community folks in Wayne County who will have to get that job done — I am hoping for heroic action. I know people have it in them but do enough people have it in them?

Comment by bridgett


How much of this, do you think, is intended to keep democratic activists tied up in the voter registration activities instead of disseminating information about the McCain’s lies?

Comment by democommie

Oh, it’s evil on so many levels…that’s the beauty part of something like this. You don’t have to even do it to make it work. All you have to do is make it LOOK like you’ll do it and be big enough bastards with a history of vote caging so that it’s clear that it’s within the realm of possibility.

What I sort of expect to happen is that they’ll find that the magnitude of the foreclosure crisis is so large that they can’t really organize the type of challenge campaign that they need to do, so they’ll only do it in a couple of critical counties and claim that there is no broader plan (because that would be heartless…)

There’s a gap between what is legal and what Americans feel should be done. If you use the law to produce an otherwise illegal result (and you make life harder for people who have just lost their homes) you might not gain all that much overall, especially if the Democratic Party wins. Then the people who have planned this little cloak and dagger will find themselves being investigated for all manners of nasty things.

It does show you how vicious and closely fought this one is going to be. Forget national polling data. You gotta be focused on state and even county/district information.

Comment by bridgett

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