Judge: GOP's voter purge a 'violation of federal law'
Stephen C. Webster
Published: Monday October 13, 2008

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The American Civil Liberties Union is trumpeting a judge's decision in Michigan which brings to a halt the practice of eliminating voters from rolls if their mailing address is found to be invalid.

Recently, the GOP chairman in Macomb County, Michigan, detailed a plan to use a list of foreclosed homes to challenge voters. His pronouncement drew an immediate backlash, with predictions that the plan would "backfire."

It has.

The suit, filed by ACLU national and ACLU of Michigan, along with the Advancement Project, aimed to protect voters whose registration cards were returned to government offices by post as 'undeliverable.' Judge Stephen J. Murphy of the U.S. District Court of Michigan's Eastern District concluded that the program of eliminating these voters from rolls is in violation of federal law.

The voter purge program, better known to elections integrity experts as 'voter caging,' is a long-storied GOP tactic employed against minority, student and low-income voters. In September, the Obama campaign filed a lawsuit in Michigan challenging the illegal tactic.

"You essentially send a first-class letter to a hoursehold where you suspect that that person no longer lives there but where they're still registered to vote," explained Allen Raymond, a convicted GOP elections fraudster who spent time in prison after the discovery of a phone-jamming scheme during the 2002 elections. "That letter comes back. ... Somebody [at the local polling place] then challenges that vote if that person comes in to vote."

"This is a very significant ruling for Michigan voters," said Matthew Lund, the ACLU cooperating attorney and a partner at Pepper Hamilton LLP who argued the case, in a release. "The court recognized – and repeated several times – that the state of Michigan is conducting unlawful voter purges that clearly violate the National Voter Registration Act. Michigan voters who were removed from the voting rolls for no reason other than failure to receive their ID card in the mail will now be allowed to vote in November.”

"More than 1,400 voters in that category have been disqualified so far in 2008," reports the Associated Press. "The judge says it's unclear how many cancellations actually are wrong but it's a violation of federal law. Murphy says those people shouldn't be prevented from voting if they can produce more proof of residency at the polls."

"This program has a very detrimental impact in minority, low-income and student communities across Michigan," claims an ACLU advisory. "These communities tend to be more transient and to live in multi-family housing."

“This is a major victory for Michigan voters and the integrity of our democratic process,” said Meredith Bell-Platts, staff counsel with the ACLU Voting Rights Project, in a release. “Today’s decision brings us one step closer to restoring confidence in a electoral system that has been poisoned by illegal disfranchisement policies. As a result of the judge’s decision, fewer Michigan voters will be illegally purged and wrongly disfranchised – and that’s good for everyone.”