Authentic Journalism at Work: Michigan Vote-Cagers on the Run

By Al Giordano

Authentic Journalist Eartha Melzer

Well, lo' and behold: Eartha Jane Melzer, 2004 graduate of the Narco News School of Authentic Journalism, is the reporter that broke the biggest voter-caging plot story of 2008 so far, a story of how a Michigan Republican party leader and his cronies planned to suppress the vote.

Melzer's September 10 story, "Lose Your House, Lose Your Vote," in the Michigan Messenger led to a furious uproar, demands from a caught-red-handed GOP official for its retraction, the newspaper standing by her story, and, today, to a federal lawsuit by three Michiganders, the Obama campaign and the Democratic state and national party, against those who would seek to "challenge" the votes of tens of thousands of Michigan voters who received home foreclosure notices.

The story began:

The chairman of the Republican Party in Macomb County, Michigan, a key swing county in a key swing state, is planning to use a list of foreclosed homes to block people from voting in the upcoming election as part of the state GOP's effort to challenge some voters on Election Day.

"We will have a list of foreclosed homes and will make sure people aren't voting from those addresses," party chairman James Carabelli told Michigan Messenger in a telephone interview earlier this week. He said the local party wanted to make sure that proper electoral procedures were followed.

State election rules allow parties to assign "election challengers" to polls to monitor the election. In addition to observing the poll workers, these volunteers can challenge the eligibility of any voter provided they "have a good reason to believe" that the person is not eligible to vote. One allowable reason is that the person is not a "true resident of the city or township."

Messenger editor Jefferson Morley wrote on September 12:

The story will not be retracted because Carabelli's and Anuzis' claims are without merit. The quotes were accurately reported. Melzer, the Michigan Messenger and the Center for Independent Media stand behind this story 100 percent.

And now the big guns are moving in.

This morning, on a conference call in which The Field participated, Bob Bauer, general counsel to the Obama campaign, announced the federal lawsuit against the Macomb County Republican Party, the Michigan Republican Party, the RNC and "John Does #1-100" to enjoin them from challenging voters based on home foreclosure lists.

"We have filed a suit today in federal court, the Eastern District of Michigan, seeking injunctive relief against a particularly ugly brand of voter caging," said Bauer. "Three Michigan voters subject to foreclosure are plaintiffs seeking relief under the US Constitution and federal Civil Rights laws."

Bauer cited the comments by Macomb GOP chairman Carabelli, plus precedent cases from 1981 in New Jersey, 1986 in Louisiana and 2004 in Ohio when Republicans engaged in similar voter caging efforts.

"One out of every 285 households in Macomb County has been listed on foreclosure notices, in excess of two thousand homes," said Bauer. "It's not only in Michigan that we are seeing this. We have seen the same indications in Ohio. Having a home on the foreclosure list does not mean that a voter doesn't live there. It does not mean the home is lost (there is still the option of paying the amount due). Voters who find themselves in this position have a grace period. If they move within their own city and town they can vote in their old precinct."

"To challenge a voter for that reason is illegal. The challenge act would have a deadly effect... the voter would have to step aside and submit to questioning. Publicizing the possibility itself creates an act of intimidation. The challenge itself is an act of harassment. If the voter chooses not to submit to questioning, there is a denial of vote. Pulling people out of line is meant to create havoc within the polling place, long lines, and a clogged voting process."

"We've heard backpedaling from Michigan Republicans. There is no reason to take those statements seriously, Bauer added. "They can tell it to the judge!"

You can read the federal court complaint, here.

And here's a report on the story from Democracy Now:

 

Halperin reports that the Michigan GOP is threatening a countersuit, for "libel."

State Republican Chair Saul Anuzis lashes out against the Obama camp, Michigan Democrats for filing suit over an alleged voter suppression plan, calling the charges "a complete fabrication." Says the move by the Dems is "designed to be nothing more than a distraction."

Adds they will be filing their own suit, charging libel.

And as usual, the corporate media - envious that an authentic journalist got the story when they didn't - is not exactly standing tall in defense of the First Amendment. Carrie Dann of NBC's First Read writes:

"The veracity of Carabelli's quote is unconfirmed, launching volleys of he-said-she-said accusations..."

Carrie Dann can bite me. Really. Are you reading this, Carrie? (And are you reading this, Carrie's bosses?) The Carabelli quote is just as confirmed as any telephone interview that Carrie Dann has ever quoted from and published. In fact, knowing the reporter, I'd say it is more confirmed, because I can testify that Melzer - who worked on the production crew of Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 911, among other accomplishments in her long track record - is a scrupulously honest (and very well trained) journalist. (Not to mention that the guy contesting her story and denying his words is a first-rate political sleaze-bag.)

The Michigan newspapers - the Lansing State Journal and the Detroit Free Press - closer to the ground, and knowing the local players better than some NBC airhead, accept the facts of Melzer's story.

The GOP's talk of a lawsuit might be just talk, but if it's not, this international network of authentic journalists and our readers will stand with and come to the defense of our colleague in full force and fury. We've done it before. When one of ours has been attacked or sued, we consider it an attack on all.

And, a memo to Chairman Anuzis and his ambulance chasers: Ask around. We never lose.

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About Al Giordano

Biography

Publisher, Narco News.

Reporting on the United States at The Field.

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