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Defending Voters' Rights in Michigan

Kary L. Moss,
Director of Affiliate Support & Nationwide Initiatives
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October 16, 2008

voting rights

A few weeks ago, in response to failed efforts to speak with Terry Lynn Land, Michigan’s Secretary of State, the ACLU and the Advancement Project filed a lawsuit against her and others for taking off the voter list those who get drivers licenses in other states and those whose voter cards are returned in the mail as undeliverable. Judge Stephen Murphy held a hearing last week, and on Monday, he decided in the ACLU’s favor.

Under one voter removal program, the Michigan Department of State, which administers both driver’s license and voter registration records, immediately cancels the voter registrations of Michigan voters who obtain driver’s licenses in other states instead of issuing the appropriate confirmation of registration notices and following the required voter removal procedures mandated by the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA). According to the Department’s own estimations, over 72,000 voters per year may have been removed from the rolls in this manner.

Under the second voter removal program, a Michigan state law requires local clerks to nullify the registrations of newly-registered voters whenever their original voter identification cards are returned by the post office as undeliverable. Detroit election officials report that nearly 30,000 voters per year in that city alone are removed from the rolls as a result of this state election law, which violates the NVRA and other federal and state laws. The NVRA permits voters to remain on the voter rolls for at least two federal elections after voter registration cards are returned.

Judge Murphy ruled that both programs are illegal and ordered nearly 1,500 wrongly purged voters to be returned to the rolls.

Although recent polling results suggest that the race may not be that close in Michigan anymore, our democracy promises that every vote is sacred and we will remain vigilant to ensure that your right to cast a vote is protected.