Two years ago, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund filed suit in Indiana and stopped what it said was a threat to disenfranchise homeowners facing foreclosure. Now, after countless more foreclosures, an NAACP lawyer says it's ready to litigate again if needed.
At issue in the 2008 lawsuit was whether a list of homeowners facing foreclosure could be used to challenge their eligibility to vote. A local Republican Party official had been quoted saying that presence on such a list “would be a solid basis” to ask someone to cast a provisional ballot.
The official later backtracked, and a state judge ordered that such a list is not by itself evidence that someone doesn’t meet the residency requirements for voting.
Kristen Clarke, co-director of the NAACP fund’s political participation group, said today that the group is on the lookout for similar challenges to eligibility this fall. “Given the continuing impact of the foreclosure crisis, vigilance will be required to ensure that this scheme does not rear its ugly head again,” she said.
In many cases, she said, people whose names are on foreclosure lists are still living in their homes. “In most places, these cases turn on the fact that these lists are very unreliable,” she said.
Clarke spoke at a news conference organized by the liberal Brennan Center for Justice. She and other civil rights advocates said they want to ward off any voting challenges that would violate federal law — citing, for example, challenges that are accompanied by intimidation.
Asked about the role of the U.S. Department of Justice — which has shifted from Republican to Democratic control since 2008 — advocates said it’s difficult to gauge the department’s enforcement of voting laws until the Nov. 2 election.
But Michael Waldman, the Brennan Center’s executive director, praised the department for not repeating some controversial practices from the George W. Bush administration. For example, the department squabbled with states over how to maintain voter databases. “They’re not doing that anymore,” Waldman said.