For Immediate Release
Maria Archuleta, ACLU, (212) 519-7808 or
Dan Korobkin, ACLU of Michigan, (313) 578-6824
Sabrina Williams, Advancement Project, (202) 728-9557 or (305) 904-3960
Michigan Agrees To Stop Unlawful Voter-Purge Programs
Agreement Follows Lawsuit By ACLU And Advancement Project
DETROIT - The state of Michigan has agreed to stop
two voter-purge programs that unlawfully disfranchised thousands of
Michigan voters in violation of federal law. The settlement agreement
resolves a lawsuit filed in September 2008 by Advancement Project, the
American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Michigan and the law firm of
Pepper Hamilton LLP on behalf of the United States Student Association
Foundation (USSAF), ACLU of Michigan and Michigan State Conference of
"This is a true victory for Michigan
voters," said Bradley Heard, a senior attorney with Advancement Project.
"Voter-removal procedures like those at issue in this lawsuit, which
allow eligible and registered voters to be suddenly stricken from the
rolls without notice, are bad for democracy. We are happy that the state
of Michigan finally agreed to right these wrongful practices."
Michigan's voter-purge programs
disfranchised Michigan voters with out-of-state driver's licenses or
voter-identification records associated with incorrect mailing
In October 2008, the U.S. District
Court in Detroit found that the voter-removal programs likely violated
the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA). The court issued a
preliminary block on a Michigan law requiring local clerks to nullify
the registrations of newly-registered voters whenever their
voter-identification cards were returned by the U.S. Post Office as
undeliverable. Today's settlement agreement permanently ends that
practice as well as the practice of purging voters from the rolls who
obtained out-of-state driver's licenses without proof that the voter
changed residence for voting.
The NVRA permits voters to remain on
the voter rolls for at least two federal general election cycles after
voter-registration cards are returned as undeliverable. The NVRA also
requires that before states purge voters who obtain out-of-state
driver's licenses, states must verify that voters actually changed
"The affirmative steps Michigan is
taking will help restore confidence in an electoral process badly
damaged by misguided practices that would have shut out lawful voters
from the democratic process," said Meredith Bell-Platts, an attorney
with the ACLU Voting Rights Project. "The people of Michigan can now be
assured that their votes will be counted regardless of whether the
postal service could match your street address or when and where you got
a driver's license."
Michigan's voter-removal programs had
a particularly detrimental impact on students and minority and
low-income communities. These populations tend to be more transient and
to live in multi-family housing or in dormitory settings where mail can
be unreliable and unpredictable. Students often have driver's licenses
from different states than where their colleges are located.
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"This ruling ensures that, despite
the transient lifestyle of college students, they will continue to have
an influential voice in the electoral process," said Gregory Cendana,
President of USSAF.
"Students and communities of color
shouldn't have their right to vote taken away because they didn't
receive their mail or have out-of-state driver's licenses," said Kary
Moss, Executive Director of the ACLU of Michigan. "We are relieved that
Michigan has agreed to take steps to make sure all Michigan voters can
make their votes count and their voices heard."
"The resolution of this lawsuit in
advance of the 2010 elections will help to eliminate a great deal of
voter confusion, particularly in communities of color," said Yvonne
White, President of the NAACP Michigan State Conference. "Since our
founding, we have constantly worked with our members and coalition
partners to fight barriers to voting. We are very proud to have helped
facilitate this important settlement agreement that ends the
disfranchisement of thousands of our members and Michigan citizens."
Attorneys on the case are Heard of
Advancement Project, Bell-Platts of the ACLU Voting Rights Project,
Moss, Dan Korobkin and Michael Steinberg of the ACLU of Michigan, and
Matthew J. Lund, Mary K. Deon and Deborah Kovsky-Apap of Pepper Hamilton
Legal documents in this case are
available at: www.aclu.org/voting-rights/
More information on the ACLU Voting
Rights Project is available at: www.votingrights.org
More information on Advancement
Project is available at: www.advancementproject.org
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