Thursday, September 25, 2008

What Took So Long?

Two weeks ago, Phoenix Woman warned us about the latest GOP move to disenfranchise Americans (via Avedon): purge them from the voting rolls because their homes were foreclosed upon. Today, the NY Times finally caught up.

More than a million people have lost their homes through foreclosure in the last two years, and many of them are still registered to vote at the address of the home they lost. Now election officials and voting rights groups are struggling to prevent thousands of them from losing their vote when they go to the polls in November.

Many of these voters will be disqualified at the polls because, in the tumult of their foreclosure, they neglected to tell their election board of their new address. Some could be forced to vote with a provisional ballot or challenged by partisan poll watchers, a particular concern among Democrats who fear that poor voters will be singled out. That could add confusion and stretch out lines that are already expected to be long because of unprecedented turnout.

Federal election officials say they are concerned that voters are not being properly informed of how to update their addresses.

Many of the nation’s highest foreclosure rates are also in crucial swing states like Colorado, Florida, Michigan and Ohio. Because many homeowners in foreclosure are black or poor, and are considered probable Democratic voters in many areas, the issue has begun to have political ramifications. Political parties have long challenged voters with expired registrations, but the possible use of foreclosure lists to remove people from the rolls — though entirely legal — has become a new partisan flashpoint.

Last week, Senator Barack Obama’s campaign filed a lawsuit in federal court, seeking to prohibit the Michigan Republican Party from using foreclosure lists to single out and challenge voters. The state Republican Party has denied having any such plans.

Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Democratic vice-presidential candidate, sent a letter last week along with a dozen other Democratic senators to Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey asking him to ensure that voters facing foreclosure are not harassed or intimidated at polling places.

As the article makes clear, probably the last thing on the minds who have been forced out of their homes by foreclosure is changing their voter registration information, and that's why the two week delay in getting this story out to the public is so damaging. We're coming up on voter registration deadlines for the November elections in many states. If in fact it is legal to remove people in foreclosure from registration lists (and if it is, shame on us), then people need to be warned about it and should be educated on how to register. Expecting beleaguered registrars and voting officials to handle the problem on election day is folly, the kind of folly which will result in the disenfranchisement of up to a million people whose only crime is that they were foolish enough to believe fast-talking loan officers. The two week delay in getting the information out to the public is unconscionable, and the NY Times should be both embarrassed and ashamed.

And as to the Republican Party operatives who have no problems in kicking people while they're down just to steal another election, may they suffer the same eternal fate as their heroes on Wall Street.

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Anonymous darms said...

The ugliest part of this is the assumption that people who've been foreclosed on have also been evicted. Not necessarily true depending on the local laws, yet while I've seen many complaints on disenfranchisement due to foreclosure, I've yet to see a single comment on the actual residency point above. If I'm still living at my registered address on election day then I still get to vote in my district. Makes no difference if I'm evicted the next day, dammit.

9:16 AM  

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