Sunday, October 26, 2008

THE GOP'S WAR AGAINST FORECLOSED VOTERS


ACORN - News reports from Michigan, Ohio and Indiana have unearthed a GOP election strategy for suppressing votes by challenging voters at the polls using foreclosure filings as a basis to prove the voter no longer lives at that address

This kind of systemic challenge could further impact election results since even threats of such challenges can suppress voter turnout, particularly in minority and lower-income communities that have experienced voter suppression in the past. Many homeowners may appear on a foreclosure list but have since made arrangements with the lender, caught up, or could even remain living in the house well past the foreclosure.

There are many stages to the foreclosure process and given the current crisis, some lenders are choosing to negotiate with the homeowner or even let them remain in the home after foreclosure. Foreclosure lists only indicate that someone has had a foreclosure filed against them and does not prove that the homeowner no longer lives in that residence.

Furthermore, most jurisdictions require change of address notification only if the voter has moved out of the precinct within the last 60 days. Even if the homeowner has actually moved, they may still live in the precinct with a family member or as a renter. Federal law requires states to let people who have moved within their jurisdiction (usually defined as a precinct) to vote and update their registration at the polls.

However, of the millions of voters whose lives have been disrupted by foreclosure, some may have been too caught up on the chaos to notify election officials in a timely way of their change in address.

Using foreclosure figures from RealtyTrac, almost four million people could be challenged at the polls for living in a different location than the foreclosed home where they were registered to vote. According to RealtyTrac, there have been 1,965,681 foreclosure filings in as of August 31. Using Census estimates of 1.92 adults per household, that means 3,774,108 adults could be challenged and disenfranchised. In six states, the margin in the 2004 Presidential Election was smaller than the number of people who have faced foreclosure in 2008: Florida, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio and Wisconsin.

In July and August alone, there were enough foreclosure filings in Nevada to impact the outcome of the Presidential election. In fact, Las Vegas alone had 39,042 foreclosure filings during the first half of 2008, far more than the 21,500 margin in the Presidential Election in 2004 for the entire state. Similar efforts concentrated in Milwaukee could result in disenfranchisement of 12,622 potential voters, while the margin in 2004 for the state of Wisconsin was 11,384. In Albuquerque, there were 1,770 foreclosures filed meaning 3,398 voters could be challenged while the 2004 margin was only 5,988 for the entire state of New Mexico. Concentration of efforts to challenge foreclosure victims in urban areas of Ohio and Florida could disenfranchise a large enough portion of voters to impact the Presidential election. There have been 56,279 foreclosure filings in Ohio's five largest cities during the first half of 2008 meaning a potential 108,056 voters could be disenfranchised for foreclosure caging if efforts are concentrated in those metropolitan areas.

Citizens who have been voting at a precinct for years could be challenged because they fell behind on their mortgage payments and had an initial foreclosure notice filed against them. As an unprecedented number of voters are anticipated at the polls, this added delay is multiplied in precincts hit particularly hard by foreclosures resulting in the chaos of voting delays, long lines, and resolving disputes among partisan poll challengers and foreclosure victims.

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