September 16th, 2008
06:17 PM ET
4 years ago

Obama campaign files suit over voter 'caging' allegations

(CNN) - Barack Obama's presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee went to court on Tuesday to block what they said were efforts by Republicans in the battleground state of Michigan to use foreclosure lists to challenge voters at the polls in November.

The Michigan Republican party has threatened its own legal action over the matter, accusing a liberal blog of fabricating the quote from a party official that prompted the Democratic suit.

The Michigan Messenger, a liberal blog, reported that Macomb County Republican chairman James Carabelli had told a contributor to their site that the party had a list of homes in foreclosure and would “make sure people aren’t voting from those addresses” – a comment he denies ever making.

The blog and its sponsor, the nonprofit Center for Independent Media, are standing by the story.

Obama general counsel Bob Bauer told reporters Tuesday that the campaign, the Democratic National Committee and three Michigan residents whose homes were in foreclosure had filed suit in federal court in the state, charging that the alleged comment, and other similar remarks by Republican officials in other states, indicated the GOP planned to practice a form of “voter caging” to prevent legal voters from casting ballots.

“It is an absolute attack on their right to vote,” said Bauer. “…This is a standard operating procedure within the Republican party that’s been under legal challenge.” He added that the suit would give them the ability to subpoena memos and e-mails to prove the allegation.

Caging is the practice of sending mass mailings marked with “do not forward” instructions to a list of addresses, and using any returned letters as the basis for challenging a voter who claims that address as their legal residence. Michigan law allows individuals who have lost their homes within two months of Election Day to cast a ballot in their old precinct.

Rep. Maxine Waters of California raised the same concern Wednesday at a hearing with FBI Director Robert Mueller – who said he would alert the Justice Department, but was not aware of any threats to block voter access.

Carabelli, the Republican official credited with the original comment, said the story was fabricated and had “irrevocably harmed” his reputation.

“It’s not true, and I want a full and complete retraction of the quote, and I am taking legal action to get it,” he said in a statement released by the Michigan Republican Party Tuesday. “Let me state, again and unequivocally, there is no such plan to use foreclosure lists to challenger voters, and I never said there was. This is a story line being pushed by one liberal blog, the Obama campaign, and their friends and operatives on the Left.”

A spokesman for the state party told CNN late Tuesday that they planned to send the Web site that published the story a cease and desist letter Wednesday morning. If the story was not retracted immediately, he said, the party was already planning a lawsuit against “anyone who’s perpetuated this fabricated story” with a list of defendants “as broad as possible” – including the Obama campaign and the Democratic National Committee.


Filed under: Michigan
soundoff (175 Responses)
  1. jo

    What, Obama crying foul over voter list! That's ironic. Didn't he win an election by making sure others couldn't run, and by checking voters out too. If anyone is playing dirty, it's Obama. He received a promise of convention delegates in a state where his name was not even on the ballot! Now, that is a foul. I will vote Republican this year!

    September 16, 2008 08:28 pm at 8:28 pm |
  2. CapoCastillo

    One of my friends sent me a link to this blog the other day.

    Regardless of whether or not the GOP plans on alienating a citizen's constitutional right to vote or not, they can't be all too suprised with the shenanegans that their party played in the two most recent Presidential contests.

    And don't think for a second there aren't equally underhanded tactics at play here in every corner of this American country. One and all, do not let the politics of sleaze deny you the voice you're entitled too!

    September 16, 2008 08:28 pm at 8:28 pm |
  3. Dan

    The republicans have no right to do this practice. After all, this is
    not Nazi Germany is it?

    Dems 08.

    September 16, 2008 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  4. Nico

    This needs to be big-time exposed!

    September 16, 2008 08:31 pm at 8:31 pm |
  5. Puffy

    Wak up people!!!! Rep want to do it again!!!!! THEY CAN WIN WITHOUT STILLING!!!!!

    September 16, 2008 08:31 pm at 8:31 pm |
  6. Patrick

    Leave it to Slick Barry the lawyer to file suit – he will continue to corrupt the election process with the DNC's blessing and it would be a frightening thought if America actually chose that slick and flashy lawyer to represent our Country. McCain/Palin 08 – the Maverick Change America Needs!

    September 16, 2008 08:33 pm at 8:33 pm |
  7. Deb, Allentown,PA

    Hmmm, who do we believe? The Republicans stole 2004 from Kerry with voting improprieties in Ohio. I'm so pleased that the Democrats will not allow it to happen this year. This sort of behavior is reprehensible. I guess the Republicans feel if they can't win on their own merits, they're entitled to win by whatever means necessary, including kicking people who are already suffering.

    September 16, 2008 08:33 pm at 8:33 pm |
  8. Trysh, Los Angeles

    First of all, even being on the foreclosure list doesn't mean you no longer live there. And with the election so close, some people will not change their voter registration information for fear of being lost in the shuffle and missing out on voting.

    September 16, 2008 08:33 pm at 8:33 pm |
  9. Scott L

    It is simple. If you show up at a polling location and your name is on the list for which you are REGISTERED to vote, then you will be allowed to vote. If your name is not on that list, good luck!

    This is why McCain will dominate this election. A lot of people who support Obama don't even know how to begin the registration process.

    Do you honestly believe that ALL of the people at the Denver convention were registered voters? What about Germany? Probably <1% of the audience were Americans registered to vote abroad.

    Good luck to both candidates, but my man John McCain is going to crush November 4th!

    Democrats will flounder once again and their party will get deeply split over the Clinton debacle.

    September 16, 2008 08:34 pm at 8:34 pm |
  10. California Voter

    Apparently, Obama doesn't like anyone taking any moves from his playbook of challenging voters like he did to win his first election!

    September 16, 2008 08:35 pm at 8:35 pm |
  11. Republi-Con

    Desperation by the Republicans. I'm glad the Dems jumped on this immediately.we can't afford to have another election stolen

    September 16, 2008 08:38 pm at 8:38 pm |
  12. No Puma - Just Sick of Dirty Tricks

    OMG, do the Republicans not realize that the whole country is watching them? Do they think that this stunt will endear them to the undecided voters.? Do these idiots not realize that the Republican party does not have an absolute right to the White House. CNN, why don't you ever post me. I don't even use foul language like I see here sometimes. Please post. Thank you.

    September 16, 2008 08:38 pm at 8:38 pm |
  13. The Nightingale Sings in Berkley Square

    Oh Oama you are a jerk. ; You are the one who blocked the voters in Michigan from voting in the primary.

    You are a jerk. And a wind bag. I can't believe this article. You also blocked the good people in Florida from voting in the primary.

    You are risky Mr. Obama and it would be a roll of the dice to select you for anything.

    September 16, 2008 08:39 pm at 8:39 pm |
  14. john

    what a new blow. silence the people most affected by the GOP policies. THIS IS UNREAL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    September 16, 2008 08:39 pm at 8:39 pm |
  15. Really now?

    The same dirty politics from Rove and Bush into McCain/Palin?

    Hmmmm.......
    We should go ask Florida.

    September 16, 2008 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  16. jake, Carlifornia

    GOP gutter tactics will not work this election. Last time I remeber it was voting machine tweaking and now they want to cage voters...

    Try something better fools. we are all paying close attention to this election, you just wont get away with it like that.

    September 16, 2008 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  17. MK

    Disgusting. Family values at it's best, stinking GOP, liars, and bigots.

    September 16, 2008 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  18. Denise

    Just to be safe and make sure my vote counted...I would vote early at the Main Election Board. This is low and dirty of the Republicans...the do ANYTHING to get elected crew.

    September 16, 2008 08:42 pm at 8:42 pm |
  19. No Puma - Just Sick of Dirty Tricks

    Trysh, Los Angeles: You make a valid point and I am betting the Republicans are thinking the same thing. Since they can't win on the issues, they are going to try every other trick in the book. I'm sure the Surpeme court is ready to give it to them like they did W.

    September 16, 2008 08:43 pm at 8:43 pm |
  20. ex mccain supporter

    THE REPUBILCAN PARTY WILL LIE IN TRY TO CHEAT THIER WAY TO THE WHITE HOUSE.

    September 16, 2008 08:43 pm at 8:43 pm |
  21. Nia Hussein- Phoenix, AZ

    I hope this exposes all of them!! We connaot alow another 2000 and 2004

    September 16, 2008 08:43 pm at 8:43 pm |
  22. sandee in Portland

    Oh my God! Its "chads" all over again. Obviously this is the way Republicans win campaigns. Deja Vu Bush election based on Florida results.

    Secondly, Trish is right. Once the people are put on a Notice of Default list, it could take 6 plus months for the foreclosure or auction to actually happen, at least in our part of the country. How do I know this. I'm a realtor who has lots of houses that are in default listed and the foreclosure dates are months out.

    September 16, 2008 08:44 pm at 8:44 pm |
  23. Please Release Us GOP

    Is there anyway to make this party go away and take it's nutty base with it. These people are holding the intelligent part of the country hostage. And I also understand that the veneable Ms. Palin used to belong to a church that spoke in tongues. Any care to discuss this?

    September 16, 2008 08:45 pm at 8:45 pm |
  24. Jack

    Here we go again – if you can't appeal to the voters, lie, cheat and pay for media coverage to cover it up!

    September 16, 2008 08:45 pm at 8:45 pm |
  25. Truth for America

    Thanks, but no thanks to the McCain/Palin TICKET TO NOWHERE

    September 16, 2008 08:45 pm at 8:45 pm |
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