(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.