Discouraging the Voter

We’ve seen it before, and we’ll see it again, but, in Michigan—which is shaping up to be a crucial swing state in the presidential contest—we’re already seeing a mounting campaign to scare off potential voters. In this case, as you have probably already heard, it’s potential Democratic voters.

On Sept. 10, the Michigan Messenger reported that state Republicans there were planning to use a list of foreclosed homes “to block people from voting in the upcoming election as part of the state GOP’s effort to challenge some voters on Election Day. The party chairman, James Carabelli, even told the reporter that:

We will have a list of foreclosed homes and will make sure people aren’t voting from those addresses.

This is an easy one. The voter challenge, planned for Michigan’s Macomb County, is a not-so-veiled attempt to block Black voters who are historically part of the Democratic base. The Messenger story points to a disproportionate effect on black voters saying more the 60 percent of subprime loans granted in the state were made to African Americans.

The Obama campaign Tuesday responded with a suit in federal court over the plan to use foreclosure lists to challenge voters at the polls, or voter caging.

Carabelli, however, has denied making the statement to the Messenger with Republican National Committee lawyers refuted the alleged comment, saying that foreclosure lists would not be used to fend off voters.

This is local stuff, and voter suppression happens all the time, in big and small elections—when a local ballot measure is on the line, or when the color of a key swing state in a presidential election lies in the balance.

What are some examples of caging or voter suppression you might have? And what can we do, as passionate communities, to keep this nonsense from happening?

Matthew Brian Hersh served as senior editor at Shelterforce from March 2008 to October 2012. He studied English at Rutgers University and has spent his professional career in journalism, policy, and politics.


  1. Update: From The Hill’s Blog Briefing Room:

    “House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-Mich.) told John McCain’s campaign Friday to take control over its supporters following reports that a county Republican chairman in Michigan planned to use lists of recently foreclosed residents to block them from voting.”

    Conyers said “It is beyond disgraceful that the Republican Party now seems to be targeting those who are suffering the most. It appears that individuals who can’t recall how many houses they own don’t understand how awful it is to lose your home to foreclosure, and don’t know that you don’t need to own property to vote in the United States of America.”

    He added: “It should surprise no one that the people who gave us the worst economy since the Great Depression would now want to prevent those victimized by this economy from voting in the coming elections. Senator McCain needs to step forward now and halt the Republican Party’s efforts to profit politically from the economic misery of others.”

    Conyers, according to the report, sent McCain a letter asking the Arizona senator to “repudiate any efforts of the Republican Party and any of its state affiliates to engage in voter suppression and intimidation tactics.”


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