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Purging the Poor

In what may be a new low, earlier this week a Republican Party county chairman in Michigan told The Michigan Messenger, our sister site, that the party plans to use lists of foreclosed homes to challenge the ballots of people registered at those addresses who try to vote on Election Day. Though he’s since denied he said it, reporter Eartha Jane Melzer stands by her story.

It’s not surprising that GOP operatives would plan on bringing fraud claims against hapless people who’ve been forced out of their homes; I’d expect to see that happening in every state where the election is close and foreclosures rates have been high.

It’s all part of a broad-based effort by Republicans, as Art Levine documented recently in The American Prospect, to spread the myth of widespread voter fraud, and to enact restrictive laws and employ intimidation tactics to keep low-income, elderly and minority voters -– most of whom tend to vote Democratic — away from the polls.

Florida, to cite one state, has started purging voters from the rolls if the information they register with doesn’t match the information the state has in its own records. If the person got married and changed her name, for example, or if, as often happens, a state worker typed the name or Social Security number incorrectly into a database, then that voter could be dropped from the rolls.

According to the Brennan Center for Justice, which is representing groups suing Florida to challenge its law, the Social Security Admin. reports a 46 percent failure rate when trying to match voter registration applications. Florida officials recently admitted in a challenge to the law that typos by election workers are the most common cause for the failures.

Macomb County party chair James Carabelli today denied The Michigan Messenger’s reports that he planned to challenge voters on the basis of foreclosure notices. But no matter: because of the restrictive voting laws like Florida’s enacted around the country, thousands of struggling Americans — whether because of a new address, a changed name or a clerk’s typo — will find casting their votes this Election Day to be far more difficult than they had anticipated.

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