Protecting the Right to Vote - Black Enterprise

Protecting the Right to Vote

Last week, a Michigan blog published a post that had the following headline: “Republicans plan to foreclose African American voters.”

On first glance, the headline seemed a bit too reactionary and “out there” to be real. But this wasn’t an Onion zinger, it was all too real.  In this historic presidential election, both sides are seeking to make sure that all voters follow the rules — even if the tactics seem a bit heavy-handed.

To that end, in an effort to prevent voter fraud, the Republican Party in Michigan plans to be at the polls with a list of foreclosed homes to stop people from voting if they’re registered at that address.

“We will have a list of foreclosed homes and will make sure people aren’t voting from those addresses,” James Carabelli, chairman of the Republican Party in Macomb County told the Michigan Messenger. He told the publication that the local party wanted to make sure that proper electoral procedures were followed.

There are two items to note: 1. Michigan is a swing state, and 2. According to Wikipedia, Macomb County’s black population doubled between 2000 and 2005 as African Americans moved out of Detroit. In addition, attacks on voting rights based on mortgage foreclosure status are a real concern since subprime loans were made far more frequently to African Americans, Latinos, and poor whites than to affluent whites, according to, a  month-old organization that monitors voter registration and plans to investigate claims of voter suppression.

Not so fast, says Donald Fowler, a former Democratic National Committee chairman and member of NoVoterLeftBehind. “”You don’t lose your right to vote when you lose your home,” he explains.

“I have been studying and fighting Republican voter suppression tactics for 30 years now, and no matter what, the GOP is saying today to the news media, the truth is that they won’t be able to resist using a combination of fake stories, targeted mailings, physical intimidation, and other sleazy tactics to discourage the maximum number of home foreclosure victims from voting.”

Under Michigan’s election rules, parties can assign “election challengers” to polls to monitor the election. In addition to observing the poll workers, these volunteers can “challenge a voter’s eligibility” if they “have good reason to believe” that the person trying to vote is either:

1) is not a true resident of the city or township;
2) has not yet attained 18 years of age;
3) is not a United States citizen; or
4) did not register to vote on or before the “close of registration” for the election at hand.

Once challenged, there are clear procedures that all parties must follow, but a challenged voter may still be allowed to vote.