GOP targets key states with dirty tricks

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The AFL-CIO has launched a new voting rights protection program to help protect working-class voters against dirty tricks in the fall elections. My Vote, My Right aims “to ensure votes cast at the ballot box are properly counted,” a post at the AFL-CIO blog reported Sept. 11. And none too soon.

Reports indicate that Republican Party operatives in Michigan and Ohio, two battleground states, are planning to use the foreclosure epidemic to disenfranchise voters.

The Michigan Messenger, an independent web site, reported that James Carabelli, who chairs the Macomb County GOP on the outskirts of Detroit, plans to bring a list of foreclosed homes to the polls Nov. 4 to challenge the eligibility of thousands of voters who he claims may be casting an improper ballot.

The report quotes a civil rights lawyer’s view that the foreclosure list is probably not an adequate source of information about an individual’s residency.

The Messenger also reported that there are strong ties between the foreclosure industry in Michigan and the John McCain campaign. According to the story, “McCain’s regional headquarters are housed in the office building of foreclosure specialists Trott & Trott. The firm’s founder, David A. Trott, has raised between $100,000 and $250,000 for the Republican nominee.”

Michigan state government data reveal a racist dimension to the targeting of homeowners who have received a foreclosure notice, the Messenger suggested. According to the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Growth, 60 percent of people who purchased a home using subprime loans were African Americans, the majority of whom back Democratic candidates and Barack Obama.

But African Americans aren’t the only target of the Republican vote suppression scheme. It targets Michigan working families of all races hardest hit by the recession. Recent polls show these voters, earning less than $50,000, support Barack Obama by double digits.

Statewide, the Messenger reported, Republicans admit to planning to suppress the vote in other ways. Near Flint, instead of organizing voter registration drives and positive campaigns for their candidates, local Republicans are training party loyalists and lawyers to challenge voters using a variety of procedural issues.

These Republican activities in Flint and Detroit aim to lower the number of votes by knocking people off the rolls, eliminating the votes they cast, or simply creating slow-downs at polling places on Election Day in order to discourage those in line.

In Franklin, Ohio, Doug Preisse, the local Republican Party boss, told a Columbus newspaper that his machine plans to use similar methods of vote suppression there.

The McCain campaign has also directly undertaken “dirty tricks” in the two states. According to Cincinnati.com, an absentee ballot request form sent out by the McCain campaign to 1 million voters in Ohio, many of them Democrats and independents, inaccurately reproduced the state’s absentee ballot request form and has been ruled improper.

Voters using those forms will see their request denied or discarded, Cincinnati.com reported this week. Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner (D) caught the error and urged voters to contact their county board of elections to get a new request form.

The error on the McCain campaign’s form is expected to cost Ohio taxpayers additional funds to replace the improperly printed forms. At this point Ohio has no legal means to require the McCain campaign to reimburse the counties that have to send out new forms. So far McCain’s campaign has refused to say whether it will repay local boards of elections for its “error.”

Similar forms were also mailed out in Michigan to independent and Democratic-leaning voters. The forms contain inaccurate addresses and other errors that could disenfranchise voters who use the forms.

In Virginia, another battleground state, the AFL-CIO reported that Republicans deliberately tried to confuse student voters about where they are eligible to register and vote. A Republican press release misled some students into believing that if they registered to vote using their address at the university, their parents could no longer claim them as dependents on their income taxes. And in Mississippi, Republican Gov. Haley Barbour ordered the elimination of party affiliation on the ballot there to confuse voters about that state’s important Senate race between Democrat Ronnie Musgrove and ultra-right Republican Roger Wicker.

jwendland@politicalaffairs.net