Voter Rights v. Fraud: Bring on the Lawsuits

Army of attorneys battle over alleged voter suppression, fraud.

ByABC News
September 17, 2008, 9:12 PM

Sept. 18, 2008— -- Top lawyers for the Democratic Party and Sen. Barack Obama this week filed a complaint in federal court in Michigan alleging that state Republicans were scheming to strip the right to vote from people living in homes that have been placed on foreclosure lists.

Democrats made their move after James Carabelli, the chairman of the Republican Party in Macomb County, Mich., allegedly told a locally run Web site, "We will have a list of foreclosed homes and will make sure people aren't voting from those addresses."

Carabelli has denied ever making such a statement and has asked the Michigan Messenger Web site for a retraction.

In the last two months of this tense and heated presidential race, a new season has arrived that usually brings an increase in allegations of disenfranchised voters and voter fraud, and the fanning out of an army of lawyers across the country.

Typically, as in the Michigan case, the lawyers divide neatly down party lines, with Democrats arguing that the voters of some of their key constituencies are under attack and Republicans countering that states need to be vigilant to combat instances of voter fraud.

On Wednesday, the Republican National Committee called the Michigan legal filing "reckless" and accused the Democrats of a national strategy to engage the federal courts "without factual basis."

Sean Cairncross, the RNC's chief counsel, said, "The RNC would not, has not, and will not use foreclosure lists as the basis of any challenge."

A Democratic lawyer involved in the suit said the party nevertheless plans to "quickly" continue the suit and file a motion for preliminary injunction.

In the Michigan complaint, the Democrats accuse the Republicans of a "long history" of voter suppression tactics.

The ACLU and other voting rights groups have filed suit in states including Mississippi, Tennessee and Alabama targeting laws they say disenfranchise voters.

On its Web site, the RNC has a section dedicated to allegations of voting fraud. On Wednesday, the committee sent out a press release regarding a story in the New Mexico media that 1,000 new voter registration cards received in one county might be frauds.

"The season has begun," said RNC spokesman Danny Diaz.