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. Erin

    Typical Republican politics. Country First? Which "Country First"? Oh sorry, I guess it's just the same old "Rich" first.
    WAKE UP AMERICA!!!

    September 16, 2008 09:48 pm at 9:48 pm |
  2. awakenedcitizen

    I could hardly wait to be old enough to vote! It is the birthright of every citizen.

    I have volunteered to register people to vote, I have been a caller to remind people to get out and vote.

    Why is it that instead of encouraging and helping citizens be enabled to vote, the Republican party has initiated efforts that KEEP qualified citizens from voting? They initiated caging. Caging eliminates voters from the voting lists, like students who are away at college, but whose permanent address is home. Like military personnel.

    Like using Diebold machines whose manufacturer said he woud "do anything" to get Bush elected. We need to go back to PAPER ballots everywhere. Ask an auditor. We need the paper trail.

    One horror story from last election was a women in a rest home who did not drive, and whose drivers license had expired. She was not allowed to vote because she did not have picture ID.

    On the seamy side, someone is mailing out "notices" to voters that election day has been changed to Nov. 5.

    McCain's campaign has been sending out absentee ballots that some voters have sent in, only they were rejected because the wording was not correct.

    In the midwest, one of the governor's was endorsing legislation for more and stricter voter ID to avoid voter fraud. The reporter asked, "how many cases of voter fraud have you had and prosecuted?" The answer: NONE So why the big deal to make it harder for people to vote?

    The truth is, Democrats try to help EVERYONE have the opportunity to exercise the right to vote. Why are the Republicans so reclacitrant to see as many citizens as possible vote?

    Seems un-American to me.

    September 16, 2008 09:50 pm at 9:50 pm |
  3. Susan

    Republicans once again trying to repress the Consitutional right of every American by denying them the right to vote! Florida repeated. Their attitude is to Hell with the Constitution, as long as we win, and McCain is in Lock Step with this attitude.

    September 16, 2008 09:52 pm at 9:52 pm |
  4. Ron Peoria, Il

    I'm sure McCain is willing to steal this election just like his other little buddy did.

    September 16, 2008 09:52 pm at 9:52 pm |
  5. DEMOCRATS RULE!

    I am NOT surprised, thats the GOP for ya!

    Obama-Biden 08.12

    September 16, 2008 09:53 pm at 9:53 pm |
  6. Obama 08

    To jo...you go right ahead and vote for republican and you will be on skid row just like the rest.

    September 16, 2008 09:55 pm at 9:55 pm |
  7. mitchell

    dirty dirty dirty......did i mention dirty....... america....only those who can afford to keep their homes ,can vote? america? land of the free? where every citizen has the right to vote? america has been hijacked by GOP. aren't these some of the same tactics used by germans in 1933?

    September 16, 2008 09:55 pm at 9:55 pm |
  8. Tracey

    Commenting on blogger Jo's remarks......You weren't going to vote for him in the beginning! If you supported Obama in the beginning, you will support him in the end. That is if you are a "true" democrat and not a selective one.

    September 16, 2008 09:56 pm at 9:56 pm |
  9. Brian

    You can't really trust the source, but then again you can't really trust the republicans to do the right thing. I think its clear that they'll do anything to win, including something as disgusting as this.

    September 16, 2008 09:56 pm at 9:56 pm |
  10. Boston Guy

    Just like the Republicans to make sure people who are down on their luck stay down.

    September 16, 2008 09:56 pm at 9:56 pm |
  11. Jasmine

    This is so sad. How far will the Republicans go to win the White House?

    September 16, 2008 09:57 pm at 9:57 pm |
  12. John Smith

    This is hilarious. Nothing but lies. But McCain and palin know how to lie very well.

    1. Telepromter not working? Lie!
    2. Cooperate with an investigation? Lie!
    3. Don't know about the economy ( said my mccain in march ) But now
    hedoes?
    4. O'bama an elitist? ( McCain owns 9 homes, worth millions.gofigure)
    5. Made a motion to investigate possible wrong doing in Alaska, then
    filed another motion against that motion. DUH DUH
    6. Has Lobbyists on his staff that works with AIG and Bank of America
    and we bail them out?
    7. Ex -chairman that still works for McCain dealt with non regulating
    banks and mortgage lenders resulting IN THE ECONOMY WE
    NOW HAVE. THANKS MCBUSH, YOU ARE PART OF THE REASON
    FOR THE COLLAPSED ECONOMY WE HAVE NOW.

    Don't believe me? MSNBC JUST REPORTED THIS 30 MIN AGO>

    O'bama/Biden

    But the average voter is not learned– so do not waste your breath!

    September 16, 2008 09:58 pm at 9:58 pm |
  13. Boston

    How low will the republicans go to try to steal another election. Remember Florida anyone? First the party is trying to sweep TROOPERGATE under the rug now this. Wake Up People.

    September 16, 2008 09:58 pm at 9:58 pm |
  14. Connie

    JO – you wrote, in part: "Didn't he win an election by making sure others couldn't run, and by checking voters out too."

    I believe that what Sen. Obama did was verify that the signatures were those of actual registered voters. (It takes a certain number of signatures to get on the ballot.) This was certainly his right – his obligation, really – ...prevents one person from signing several different names. If he followed the rules, shouldn't everyone else have followed the rules?

    This thing in Michigan is something else. This is denying an American his/her right to vote.

    September 16, 2008 09:58 pm at 9:58 pm |
  15. anyonmous

    how could obama won michagan he didnt even put his name on the ballot now imagane if obama had well see what percent mccain lead

    September 16, 2008 09:59 pm at 9:59 pm |
  16. Obama/Biden

    Vote smart this November. Vote good judgment. If you say that our economy is good now, you are an elitist and you do not know our struggle to put food on our bellies and gas in our cars. John McCain that elitist think the economy is good and has no plan to help us. He wants more wars, more tax cut for big corporate that ship our jobs oversees. Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania I know that your economies are hurting and you must vote smart and vote someone who understands your economics’ struggles. It is not time to support someone who does not understand the economy, it is time to take our country back and get our respect back around the world. Vote Democratic this November if you are a true American who put America first. We need change in Washington and the Democratic Party has that change for us this November.

    September 16, 2008 09:59 pm at 9:59 pm |
  17. FrankSmith

    This is hilarious. Nothing but lies. But McCain and palin know how to lie very well.

    1. Telepromter not working? Lie!
    2. Cooperate with an investigation? Lie!
    3. Don't know about the economy ( said my mccain in march ) But now
    hedoes?
    4. O'bama an elitist? ( McCain owns 9 homes, worth millions.gofigure)
    5. Made a motion to investigate possible wrong doing in Alaska, then
    filed another motion against that motion. DUH DUH
    6. Has Lobbyists on his staff that works with AIG and Bank of America
    and we bail them out?
    7. Ex -chairman that still works for McCain dealt with non regulating
    banks and mortgage lenders resulting IN THE ECONOMY WE
    NOW HAVE. THANKS MCBUSH, YOU ARE PART OF THE REASON
    FOR THE COLLAPSED ECONOMY WE HAVE NOW.

    Don't believe me? MSNBC JUST REPORTED THIS 30 MIN AGO>

    O'bama/Biden

    But the average voter is not learned– so do not waste your breath!

    September 16, 2008 10:02 pm at 10:02 pm |
  18. barbara

    Here in North Carolina, Republicans are mailing bogus absentee ballots to registered Democrats, intending for them to vote on the fake ballots and not go to the polls.

    September 16, 2008 10:04 pm at 10:04 pm |
  19. SD

    to hell with palin!

    September 16, 2008 10:05 pm at 10:05 pm |
  20. Peter Thickwood

    OBAMA-BIDEN '08 & '12

    September 16, 2008 10:05 pm at 10:05 pm |
  21. bigmike

    Hey, is`nt Oboma the Democratic nomenee because Fla. and Michigan never got counted? Sen. Clinton won the nomination if they had counted Fla. and Michigan. Spare me the phony outrage!!!

    September 16, 2008 10:05 pm at 10:05 pm |
  22. Deborah

    I agree with read the Case Against Obama. I want to hear answers to issues, we learned how to call names in kindergarden. I recent Larry King and others asking about her teen daughter, special needs child. I was a 15 yr old mother, have 4 college degrees, work in healthcare, support military families and have a special needs child, and I pay 33% in taxes. So lets get to the issues the Insurance companies are crooks. The military has what is the closest thing we have to socialized medicine. We work for a salary, love our patients, send them to specialists if needed. Change the thought pattern. Woman hold very high and powerful positions so get off the woman issue. Woman will be more than 50% of the tax payers. While Americans think they can pick welfare over minimum wage jobs to give those jobs to immigrants legal or illegal get a life go to work and quit sitting on the side lines.

    September 16, 2008 10:05 pm at 10:05 pm |
  23. Ron

    The Republicans are going to steal yet another election, mark my words.

    September 16, 2008 10:06 pm at 10:06 pm |
  24. Survival of the Fittest

    They are using the same tactics in Ohio and have logged 600k plus people in their database to challenge their votes if they ever vote at all. This is criminal and vile since all these people lost their homes due to MCBush's trickle-down economics. What a travesty!

    September 16, 2008 10:07 pm at 10:07 pm |
  25. Republican for Obama

    This is why I can't vote for McCain. I just don't understand him!!!

    NO WAY, NO HOW, NO MCCAIN/PALIN

    September 16, 2008 10:08 pm at 10:08 pm |
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