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Federal Judge Halts Michigan Voter Purge:

Fake voter registration is hardly the only election problem. Efforts to purge voter rolls of ineligible voters can (and often do) result in the removal of eligible voters as well, particularly if purge efforts are based upon returned mailers. From the Detroit Free Press:

U.S. District Judge Stephen Murphy III told state officials to immediately stop canceling the registrations of newly registered voters whose voter identification cards are returned as undeliverable by the post office. Murphy said state officials must restore the names of 1,438 people who have been removed from the rolls under this method since Jan. 1.

Murphy said a second practice -- removing the names of people who apply for driver's licenses in other states -- also is illegal, but the prospects of restoring the names of about 200,000 people, only a few of whom were wrongly removed, "would risk grave harm to the public interest by permitting a large number of ineligible voters to vote."

The judge said the plaintiffs and defendants in a lawsuit must figure out how to deal with that problem as the lawsuit proceeds.

Steve:
For those with curiosity about partisan things, Judge Murphy is a very recent Bush appointee who was most recently the US Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan during Bush's second term.

The MI Secretary of State is a Republican.
10.14.2008 12:48pm
Oren:
Having a driver's license in another state has nothing to do with qualification to vote. See, e.g. NH laws which provide in part:
YOUR RIGHT TO VOTE IS NOT AFFECTED BY WHERE YOU OBTAIN A DRIVER'S LICENSE OR REGISTER YOUR CAR.


Of course, NH requires students that establish a domicile to get a DL whereas MA, my current residence, allows college students to use their out-of-state licenses.
10.14.2008 12:50pm
Hoosier:
This whole story is a fabrication. Judges in MI must be attorneys. And the last college-educated Michigander left for Texas in August.
10.14.2008 1:13pm
J. Aldridge:
Jacob M. Howard: "The States have exercised the power of controlling, regulating, and restricting popular suffrage from the commencement of the State governments down to the present time. It is one of the rights reserved to the States, and is to be exercised in its fullness and in its plenitude without any control on the part of Congress or any question being put by Congress to them."

Story: "It cannot be said with any correctness that Congress can in any way alter the rights or qualifications of voters."

James Madison: "The right of suffrage is certainly one of the fundamental articles of republican government, and ought not to be left to be regulated by the [Federal] Legislature."

John Bingham: "The right of States to determine who may vote under what conditions is a exclusive right belonging only to the States and cannot ever be questioned by any act of Congress or national courts. Any condition other than conditions based on race is a reserved right."
10.14.2008 1:36pm
Opher Banarie (mail) (www):
Aren't people who live in Michigan known to be Meshuganeh?
10.14.2008 1:43pm
Assistant Village Idiot (mail) (www):
Given an error rate, however small, in all attempts to purge voting rolls of ineligible voters, what approved methods are there for removing them?

As most jurisdictions allow provisional ballots, is there any further remedy a voter is entitled to?
10.14.2008 3:17pm
Nony Mouse:
My guess is that part of the problem is the way states deal with "Motor Voter" registration.
Imagine, if you will, that you are a novice at moving into a new state, and you have been given a reminder that you need to change your driver's license if you are going to be a resident. So, being sound of mind and body, you show up at the correct office. Since you indicate that you have a license from another state and have moved, you are asked to surrender your previous license. This indicates to you that the entity which issued the license will be informed that it is no longer a valid license, as a part of the computerized process. All well and good. But now, the helpful clerk asks you if you wish to register to vote. "Why sure," you think. "That means fewer errands to run while I'm still trying to move." And so since your license was switched over with no issues, the voter registration changeover is dismissed from the mental 'things to do list'... right up until you recieve a notification that you've attempted to register to vote in two places at once, and what kind of people do you think we are anyway, and here are the forms you have to fill out to prove to us that you aren't intentionally criminal (yes, from personal experience about eight years ago - started in august, it didn't get straightened out in time for the vote).
If you're going to have "motor voter" laws, some sort of removal mechanism from prior residence lists ought to be explained to citizens and automated.
And as for the "returned undeliverable" that ought to be a red flag for investigation. They might find a mailcarrier like the one I had at one place I lived who didn't deliver any mail to my place until my roommate asked why we weren't getting mail ("I didn't know you were living there" isn't a good answer) and didn't pick up a bill I was trying to post for a week ("I'm not going to go by unless there's enough stuff to drop off" is even worse). Then again, if the delivery address is a plot number of a graveyard, they might want to think about removal.
10.14.2008 3:39pm
John Burgess (mail) (www):
Gee, when I moved to Florida some years ago, I went to get my car registration and drivers license changed to reflect my new residency/address. Isn't this requirement rather common knowledge? About the only thing that differs among the states in this is just how long you may live in the state before you must get your paperwork straight.

After handling the license/registration transaction, and being informed that my old license would be returned to its state of origination, I was asked if I wanted to register to vote as well. I did. My new address was entered into the system. Two weeks later, I received in the mail my voter ID card.

I was even asked if I wanted to get my hunting or fishing licenses at the same time. Truly one-stop shopping.

My county in FL does require photo ID in order to cast a ballot. A mismatch between what's on the registry and the ID proffered results in a provisional vote.
10.14.2008 4:41pm
subpatre (mail):
What nobody is talking about is the combination of "voter qualification is determined by the state" and the reality that new-state registrations do not invalidate old-residence registrations.

Those that realize this use it abundantly; Florida (and probably AZ as well) have hundreds of thousands of dual voters; aka 'sunbirds' or 'snowbirds' depending on your origin. They own property where they live (much of the year) and vote absentee; they then vacation in FL, AZ, et al where they vote in person because that's where they own property and live (much of the year), and vote at the booth.


There is no state-to-state communication device for voter registration; not for crimes or disqualification, nor for dual registration.

Is there a federal law to disqualify (dual-residency) dual voter registrations?
10.14.2008 5:11pm
Mark Rockwell (mail):
This is all so complex. If they want to prevent left leaning citizens from casting a vote, Michigan ought to just follow Ohio's lead:

"We forgot to distribute the voting machines?! ...Weird."
10.14.2008 5:21pm
Greg Q (mail) (www):
U.S. District Judge Stephen Murphy III shoudl be impeached. I dont' care who appointed him.

If you didn't give a valid address, you haven't legitimately registered to vote.

Allowing dishonest votes steals honest voters' votes. So even if there are some legitimate voters in that pile, that's not sufficient justification for that judge's actions.
10.14.2008 7:12pm
Aleks:
Re: Isn't this requirement rather common knowledge? About the only thing that differs among the states in this is just how long you may live in the state before you must get your paperwork straight.

There are people who maintain two residences in different states (retirees and college students mainly) and they are not required to change their drivers license every time they travel back and forth. Florida is actually quite tolerant of this, though most part-year residents do go with year-round Florida licensing and registration because it's low cost and relatively no hassle.

Re: Allowing dishonest votes steals honest voters' votes.

And not allowing honest people to vote also steals their votes. And there's far greater evil in our history on that side of the fence so I would suggest that erring on that side of caution is the ethical thing to do. Ultimately I would suggest we need a bettre regsitration tracking system. Also, the six month period following every biennial election should be open purge time with everyone who has not voted in a given area the past two major elections stricken from the rolls in that jurisdiction automatically with a letter sent to their last address of record informing them of that fact (and giving them plenty of time to update their registration before the next election). Last minute voting purges are highly suspect and should be allowed only on an individual basis when evidence reaches the registrar that a voter has died, moved or become incapacitated from voting.
10.14.2008 8:42pm
Oren:
There are people who maintain two residences in different states (retirees and college students mainly) and they are not required to change their drivers license every time they travel back and forth.

One wonders what the State of Michigan would do to these poor souls . . .
10.14.2008 9:15pm
just me (mail):
There are people who maintain two residences in different states (retirees and college students mainly) and they are not required to change their drivers license every time they travel back and forth.

Not sure about the actual driver's license, but Florida does required that you pay for a Florida tag if you are living there for a certain amount of time (ie about the amount of time the snow flies up north).

I think purging people who have a license in a different state is over the top, but I am not so sure purging those whose registrations come back as undeliverable is wrong-I think it would depend on why they are undeliverable.

Seems to me instead of purging these names, maybe creating a sort of "flagged for provisional" list should be generated. If those people show up to vote, then have them provide proof of residency with a provisional vote. That way they do not lose their ability to vote, if they were purged unfairly, but it also doesn't result in somebody casting a fraudulent vote.
10.14.2008 11:07pm
benji (mail):
I live in Michigan. And this hasn't really gotten any play from what I've seen in media or academic circles around here.

Everyone seems to be focused on how first-time voters can't get absentee ballots if they haven't registered or applied for one in person. Of course, the obsessions of people on college campuses probably aren't indicitive of the population as a whole.

I would agree with the above post on making them provisional for further review. Seems like a reasonable position between throwing them out and allowing anything.
10.15.2008 7:17am