Obama campaign accuses GOP of planning voter suppression

Democrats respond to a report that the Michigan GOP planned to challenge voters whose homes were foreclosed on.

Published September 16, 2008 7:17PM (EDT)

Responding to a report that the Republican Party of Macomb County, Mich., plans to challenge the registration of voters whose homes have been foreclosed on, Democrats are accusing the GOP of planning massive and illegal voter suppression. On Tuesday, during a conference call with reporters, the Obama campaign -- joined by Michigan Democrats -- announced that it is seeking an injunction in federal court to prevent the GOP from going through with any such plan, which is known as "caging."

The goal of the alleged caging efforts, Obama campaign counsel Bob Bauer told reporters, would be "harassment" of voters. Republicans want "to create havoc in the polling place, to create long lines, a clogged process," Bauer said.

Michigan Democratic Party chairman Mark Brewer called the purported plan "simply un-American, unconscionable," and accused the state GOP of being behind it. "The county chairs don't freelance," Brewer said.

Bauer contends that a foreclosure notice is insufficient grounds for a challenge, and that any such challenge would be illegal. Even if voters' homes actually have been foreclosed on, Michigan entitles them to a grace period to vote from their old address, he said.

The Democrats' efforts stem from a report in the Michigan Messenger, a liberal news site. In the original article, by Eartha Jane Melzer, Macomb County Republican Party chairman James Carabelli is quoted as saying, "We will have a list of foreclosed homes and will make sure people aren't voting from those addresses." Carabelli has since denied the report, telling the Detroit News, "I never said anything even close to that. We won't be doing voter challenges on foreclosures, and we've never had a plan to do it."

After the Democrats' call, Republicans held one of their own, during which Saul Anuzis, chairman of the state GOP, called the allegations "a complete fabrication" and said they were "designed to be nothing more than a distraction." He also said the GOP would file its own suit, claiming libel.

By Gabriel Winant

Gabriel Winant is a graduate student in American history at Yale.

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