September 16th, 2008
06:17 PM ET
12 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. Greg

    If I recall it was TheCrock Obama that didnt want Michigan seated in the primaries. And now all of the Detroit libs are so in love with Barry. If Obama gets in the White House you can count on his administration being just as crooked as the Detroit Mayor's.

    September 16, 2008 10:50 pm at 10:50 pm |
  2. Kim, Dallas, TX

    Rather scary to think the Good Old Party is capable of doing such dishonest things...and yet, no big surprise.

    September 16, 2008 10:52 pm at 10:52 pm |
  3. Janice Il

    He certainly has the campaign money to file a suit and what a way to spend it, after all its really not hard earned like the rest of us now is it? There is no way in the world that it is necessary for either party to throw good money after bad, when America could use it in many ways.

    September 16, 2008 10:52 pm at 10:52 pm |
  4. Amy

    Despicable! I guess McCain/Palin and their cronies will go to any lengths to disenfranchise voters who probably wouldn't vote for them. We've seen it before and it appears to be happening again with the ballot approved by Haley Barbour in Mississippi. Of course the person who made the comment is going to deny it! Do we have to walk around with tape recorders now?

    September 16, 2008 10:54 pm at 10:54 pm |
  5. Reasonable Observer

    A candidate that subcontracts "get out the vote" work to the tainted ACORN organization (known for voter registration fraud in several states) probably should not protest voter registration issues. I suppose the "dead voters" will be living at the foreclosure addresses.

    September 16, 2008 10:56 pm at 10:56 pm |
  6. Annie

    The Republicans will stop at nothing to make sure qualified citizens can't vote. Wonder what part of town they're pulling these stunts in? Guess. I live in Georgia, support Obama, and am afraid to put a sign in my front yard or on my car for fear of my family's safety. I don't recognize the America I live in anymore.

    September 16, 2008 10:57 pm at 10:57 pm |
  7. Donna from Colorado Springs

    Just another example of crooked republican political efforts to ensure they win the state of Michigan. After all, it worked with Florida in 2000 with the infamous hanging chads! The democrats know what you're up to! We aren't stupid enough to let you get away with cheating to win another election again! I hope the american people will finally realize just how vile and crooked the republican party has become and choose not to believe their lies like they have for eight years. People, wake up!!!!!!!!! Don't look at Obama as that younger black man who seems scary. He's trying to make your life better and help you. You don't have to be scared of him! Don't look at McCain as that nice older gentleman with white hair who seems so friendly and willing to help you. He's lying to you just to get your vote. YOU SHOULD BE SCARED OF HIM! Vote for Obama. You will be glad you did in the long run.

    September 16, 2008 10:59 pm at 10:59 pm |
  8. t.baker

    So the wingnuts are threatening legal action to stop something that was started to stop something they started? ....

    And yet, they say it was a 'rumor'???

    Why bother threatening legal action then?

    What a bunch of morons....

    September 16, 2008 11:04 pm at 11:04 pm |
  9. dr

    hey Jo
    Please check your facts about why Obama wasn't on the ballot and who broke what rules. Vote Republican if you want. I only hope your country is still here when you pull your head out of the sand.

    September 16, 2008 11:05 pm at 11:05 pm |
  10. NICK

    Threats to block voter access!!!!.....will the Republicans stop at nothing...THEY NEVER HAVE. For once, they've been caught!

    September 16, 2008 11:08 pm at 11:08 pm |
  11. Diana

    THE REPUBLICANS ARE SLIME-BALLS!! I will NEVER vote for a Republican ticket again.

    September 16, 2008 11:10 pm at 11:10 pm |
  12. Theresa

    The Republican Party has sunk to a new low.

    September 16, 2008 11:11 pm at 11:11 pm |
  13. Jake

    Silence the people most effected by Republican policies.
    This is criminal........sad.

    September 16, 2008 11:12 pm at 11:12 pm |
  14. No Hillary = No Obama

    Michigan has become this election cycle's pinata. I think Michigan, that cold state, would appreciate someone like Palin, someone who can tough out those frozen months – a rustic and nature loving individual. ALso, I would think the unions in Michigan would identify with her husband. Michigan is a blue collar state and can relate to down-to-earth, hard working individuals. Not some ivy league, blow hard, elitist. Wait and see – Michigan will go with McCain and Palin.

    September 16, 2008 11:13 pm at 11:13 pm |
  15. ZANE

    Republicans stop at nothing, kind-of scary really. What next?!?

    September 16, 2008 11:14 pm at 11:14 pm |
  16. Truth Be Told

    This is a terrible! In America one of the most precious thing that we have is our right to vote...and a democratic society. The Republicans are trying to replace our democracy into an autocracy. They have pretty much succeeded for the past 8 years. I am ready for a change. Even with all of the Republicans lies, hate speech, manipulations, evasions of responsibility and bad policies....I believe that the world is crying out for new leadership...and that's what we're gonna' get. Go Obama/Biden!!!!

    September 16, 2008 11:14 pm at 11:14 pm |
  17. Jacob


    Your grammar betrays you. No way you have four college degrees.

    It seems the right is content to just say Obama is not offering solutions, and believe their own empty hype. McCain has no viable economic strategy except to tie it up in committee and hope it goes away. Obama has been sticking to the same plan since what, like March? Economists both in the states and out say his is the more likely solution. McCain has gone from opposing regulation to insisting on a 9/11 style crisis committee in the last thirty hours!

    I suppose next you're going to tell me you support abstinence education would have saved you from being a 15 year old mother.

    September 16, 2008 11:14 pm at 11:14 pm |
  18. hana

    mcain+bush+rov+palin+cheney another 8yrs?
    you really want them again? really? comeon america wake up.
    another 8yrs of them? NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.
    i am sick of tired of them.


    September 16, 2008 11:16 pm at 11:16 pm |
  19. Sherry

    This would be the only way McCain/Palin would win.

    September 16, 2008 11:17 pm at 11:17 pm |
  20. Cheryl R

    This is just one of the Republican schemes to prevent Americans, especially blacks, from voting. There are other states where people are sent purposely confusing forms which if improperly responded to can result in them not being registered to vote. And some states now demand drivers licenses as i.d. before you can vote, thereby disenfranchising those too poor to drive.

    I don't understand why Americans stand for this. What is more precious than preserving the right to vote?

    September 16, 2008 11:18 pm at 11:18 pm |
  21. BLOUNT


    September 16, 2008 11:20 pm at 11:20 pm |
  22. tara

    That's it! I'm voting for Obama now!!

    September 16, 2008 11:21 pm at 11:21 pm |
  23. Bob, Ohio

    The republicans are foul. Just foul.

    Look what they're doing in my state... McCain's campaign sent out a bunch of voter registration flyers that were deliberately misleading just to get people to improperly fill them out so they'd disqualify themselves from voting this election.

    I got one, but luckily my neighbor who got one too notified me of the scam. I live in Mahoning county iand I'm going door to door to tell everyone not to vote McCain this fall.

    September 16, 2008 11:21 pm at 11:21 pm |
  24. Mark

    Whats with you people? The United States of America, the richest Country in the world...and you can't even run a fair and honest election!!! Why are there millions of people in your country who are not even registered to vote? In most modern world democracies such as Western Europe and Canada, every citizen is registered to vote by law. Every single citizen whether they are white, black yellow, red, or brown should be registered to vote. Somehow the phrase "home of the free" sounds hollow and meaningless. The first thing the new President should do is make it manditory in law that every single American citizen be automatically registered to vote.

    September 16, 2008 11:22 pm at 11:22 pm |
  25. MB

    Democracy is a great thing! You can vote self interest and you do not have to tell anyone who did you vote for. If you think you deserve better and more affordable healthcare, better schools, help with collage education, pay less taxes, America be energy independent, vote Obama.

    September 16, 2008 11:32 pm at 11:32 pm |
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