September 16th, 2008
06:17 PM ET
3 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. sjp

    sounds like the mccain fliers in wisconsin that have return envelopes with incorrect clerk addresses, thus nullifying the vote. obviously the repubs know the lies cant last and are trying everything to have another 2000.

    September 16, 2008 08:45 pm at 8:45 pm |
  2. Sage

    that's right cut the head off of the corrupt GOP snake...we are Americans... every vote counts....SHAME ON GOP

    September 16, 2008 08:46 pm at 8:46 pm |
  3. kravitz

    Good to see the Obama people still have a pulse and are proactively fighting.

    September 16, 2008 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
  4. Cindy

    If it isn't true, then you have nothing to worry about, Mr Carabelli. Justice will prevail, and all voters will be counted.

    September 16, 2008 08:49 pm at 8:49 pm |
  5. Happy in Oregon

    Another Republican ploy that they are calling a stop to because they got caught before they could go forward. Disgusting. Let's hit the little guy when they are down and out and take away their right to vote! That's how confident they are in their candidate!!!!!

    No Way, No How, McCain and Palin the Puppet!

    September 16, 2008 08:49 pm at 8:49 pm |
  6. Gary from Madison, WI

    It is probably a nation wide GOP effort. Here in Wisconsin, our Republican state attorney general is suing the elections board to make sure that anyone that votes in this state has a photo ID.

    How typical of Republicans to disenfranchise Americans yet again.

    September 16, 2008 08:50 pm at 8:50 pm |
  7. George Bush in a skirt!!!!!!!!!!

    What won't the GOP do to steal this election again.
    McCain is supposed to be truthful. He has sold his heart to the devil!!

    September 16, 2008 08:52 pm at 8:52 pm |
  8. Tim

    The DNC needs to file a lawsuit in Ohio also. Do anything just to win, the heck with anyone who stands in our way...The Republican Creed!!!! CNN, why is this not being talked about on your show???

    September 16, 2008 08:52 pm at 8:52 pm |
  9. Matt

    Here's how it works:

    1. Register to vote.

    2. Suffer foreclosure.

    3. Fail to update your voter registration so it still lists the foreclosed address.

    4. Go to the booth.

    5. Get told you can't vote because they claim you are faking it and nobody canlive at a foreclosed address, so your residency is questionable.

    ORGANIZE THE COMMUNITY OBAMA. GET THEM OUT AND GET THEM UPDATING THEIR REGISTRATIONS. BEAT THEM AT THEIR OWN GAME WHILE FIGHTING THE GOOD FIGHT IN THE COURTS.

    September 16, 2008 08:52 pm at 8:52 pm |
  10. Matt

    Keep in mind: This is the same republican MI legislature that scheduled the Democratic primaries when they weren't supposed to be scheduled.

    September 16, 2008 08:53 pm at 8:53 pm |
  11. J.L.

    I wouldn't put it past some of the GOP if this was true... the ends justifies the means. I'm sure if someone didn't bring this up, they might be trying it.

    September 16, 2008 08:53 pm at 8:53 pm |
  12. j.williams, san diego

    What's wrong for trying to vote twice ??everybody LOVES Chicago don't they ??

    September 16, 2008 08:53 pm at 8:53 pm |
  13. John Smith

    The RICH folks are really afraid of Obama– He will raise their taxes.

    Here, we see the poor fighting to keep the Rich in power (to get richer) by voting for McCain and Bush!!! How great it is to be educated, as well as have "common sense."

    To be a Republican, you only need to be Dumb!!

    September 16, 2008 08:53 pm at 8:53 pm |
  14. florida

    Please keep a eye in Florida. The cubans populations will fabricated death people voter register. please please please please have the obama lawyers keep a close eyes there a lot of deception.

    September 16, 2008 08:56 pm at 8:56 pm |
  15. maynard hopkins wi

    OBAMAS TEAM IS GRASPING AT STRAWS AGAIN. THIS GUY WILL DO ANYTHING TO GET INTO OFFICE. HE REMINDS ME OF ANOTHER PERSON FROM THE SAME PARTY.

    ONE QUESTION?

    HOW CAN SOMEONE RAISE 66 MILLION DOLLARS IN ONE MONTH WHEN THE ARE LIMITS TO HOW MUCH PEOPLE CAN GIVE

    SEEMS LIKE SOMEONE IS STRETCHING THE TRUTH HERE ALITTLE BIT. HAVE YOU NOTICED THAT THE "ELITE" POLITICAL ANALYISTS ARE NOT DOING ANY INVESTIGATING ON THIS SUBJECT.

    September 16, 2008 08:56 pm at 8:56 pm |
  16. Foreign Observer

    I emailed them about this a few days ago... guess others did as well. I'm so unbelievably glad they're going after the anti-democratic country-hating jerks responsible for this cynical crap...

    September 16, 2008 08:57 pm at 8:57 pm |
  17. Paula

    Interesting that people would complain about such tactics when Obama started his political career using similar tactics in Illinois to disenfranchise voters who printed their names on the voter petition instead of using cursive to sign their same. In that case voted of legitimate voters were not counted due to the technicality. What is that old saying: what goes around comes around?

    September 16, 2008 08:58 pm at 8:58 pm |
  18. victor,nj

    repugs, continue to sink to a new low. Where is the moral values they continue to preach.

    September 16, 2008 08:59 pm at 8:59 pm |
  19. Rick K

    ...a tiny bit of research, from the Michigan Messenger:

    [Obama's attorney Bob Bauer] said that the complaint includes quotes from Republican operatives in Ohio and other states saying much the same thing Carabelli said and defending the legitimacy of using foreclosure lists and voter caging techniques.

    Bauer also said that they expect that the lawsuit will allow them to subpoena emails and memos from the state and local GOP officials that will prove that they had obtained foreclosure lists and were planning to use them for this purpose.

    You're welcome CNN. I didn't think the Obama camp was so careless as to file a complaint with no supporting facts – not his style.

    September 16, 2008 08:59 pm at 8:59 pm |
  20. CNN

    Pathetic! This is the only way Republicans know how to win by cheating! I believe in my heart that Kerry won Ohio in 2004 because there was voting fraud there as well. I was upset that he didn't protest it.

    September 16, 2008 08:59 pm at 8:59 pm |
  21. Dem for Unity

    That is scary. Republicans are low down dirty scoundrals. I cant wait for this General Election to be over and Obama rolling up his sleeves and getting to work. The poeple's champ.

    September 16, 2008 09:00 pm at 9:00 pm |
  22. Sue

    once again the Republicans are cheating. If you love your country you better go out and vote for Obama!!!!!!!!!!! My God, he has to win by a big margin so that the republicans can' t cheat this time!!

    September 16, 2008 09:02 pm at 9:02 pm |
  23. James

    McCain and the Michigan GOP are trying to stop people who have lost thier homes from voting. They are apparently planning to do this in all close states.

    More proof that the Republicans are not for the common man. They only want to use the common man to promote the wealthy.

    Is this what you're voting to support republican base? Denying your brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers and nieghbors who have lost thier homes from voting? Don't you see the type of people you are supporting? How could you live with this?

    September 16, 2008 09:02 pm at 9:02 pm |
  24. Lynn:60 yr old Obama supporter

    Why is it that Americans have so much trouble running an election where all votes are counted?? Rigged lists, no paper trail, people left out, pnoney ballots mailed, machines that are easy to hijack....Wake up people...this is how Republicans win.

    Ihave never heard of any western democracy that has these kinds of problems!!!

    September 16, 2008 09:03 pm at 9:03 pm |
  25. Hillary For Supporter for McCain

    Maybe the DNC can demand that ichigan voters cast only a half vote! Obama, Reid, Pelosi and Dean can stick it. This Life long democrat will be voting for the McCain/Palin ticket. Democrats need to clean up there own house before making such wild accusations. I've had enough of the sleazy politics of the DNC.

    September 16, 2008 09:03 pm at 9:03 pm |
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