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'The voter registration you currently hold...may be cancelled'

by: matt

Mon Aug 14, 2006 at 12:01:19 PM EDT

UPDATE by Matt: Just for spits and giggles, here's an old AP article from WAY back in 2002, where Terri (the former Kent County Clerk) and Betsy DeVos talk about working on the Gerald Ford campaign together in 1976. Guess they go back awhile.

NOTE: Make sure you see Grebner's latest comments down at the bottom.

Remember a few weeks ago when my ex-boss and political list kingpin Mark Grebner (D) called attention to the massive statewide mailing Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land's (R) office sent out to all registered voters. Remember when he suggested it could be part of an effort by Land to "clean up" the state voter file?

Well, take a look at this letter to a Michigan voter just obtained by Michiganliberal.com (click on image for .tif version):

SOS letter

Here's what it says:

State of Michigan
Department of State

Residency Confirmation Request for Voter Registration Purposes

The voter registration you currently hold in the city or township listed above may be cancelled as we have been advised that you no longer reside at the address recorded on your voter registration.

If you have permanently moved to an address outside of this jurisdiction, please return the detachable reply form to confirm your address as soon as possible. A pre-addressed postage paid return envelope is enclosed for your convenience. Please note that in order to vote, you must register with the clerk of the jurisdiction where you now reside. (See below for information on how and where a personb may register to vote or update his or her voter registration due to an address or name change.)

If you have not permanently moved to an address outside this jurisdiction, please return the detachable reply form in the enclosed envelope to correct our information no later than the 30th day before the next election. If the reply form is not returned by the 30th day before the next election, you will be required to 1) vote in your former precinct of residence and 2) submit an address correction before voting. If the reply form is not returned, and you do not vote or update your address by the federal November 2008 election, your voter registration will be cancelled.

(More below the fold...)
matt :: 'The voter registration you currently hold...may be cancelled'
Information on registering to vote and changing your address or name: Eligible persons may register to vote, change their name in any of the following ways:

In Person - At your county, city or township clerk's office; at any Secretary of State Branch office; at designated agencies administered under the Department of Human Services, the Department of Community Health, and the Department of Labor and Economic Growth; or at military recruitment offices.

By Mail - By submitting a mail-in voter registration application to your county, city or township clerk. Michigan's mail-in voter registration application is available on the Department of State's website: www.michigan.gov/vote.

(Please Print)

Reply Form

Full Name: __________________________
Telephone number:______________(optional)
I currently reside at: ____________________

Sign here__________________ Date______

(end of letter)

This past Friday, I spoke with Ann Arbor City Clerk Jacqueline Beaudry. Jackie says she's heard so far from 3 perturbed voters who are properly registered and wondering why the state wants to revoke their voter registration. She says some of the people getting these letters are people who may currently be out of state or voting overseas - which local clerks, not the state, would be in a position to know. Jackie says state elections officials have told her about 230,000 of these letters have been mailed out.

So the state is trying to clean up the voter rolls. Big deal. What's the problem?

Well, for one thing, the State of Michigan has no authority to do this. Under Michigan law (MCL 168.509), only city or township clerks have the ability to strike people from the voter rolls. Terri Land may not like that law. But that's what it says.

According to Grebner, State Elections Director Chris Thomas says the SOS is proceeding under the assumption that federal Help America Vote Act gives them the ability to go forward. In other words, the Secretary of State has apparently decided to unilaterally ignore Michigan law - a law properly approved by the Michigan Legislature, signed by the Governor of Michigan and a law that has - to date - survived all challenges in the courts. In essence, this activist Secretary of State appears to be substituting her own will for properly enacted state policy. Kinda reminds me of something I read in the DN the other day by House Speaker Craig DeRoche (R-Novi) vis-a-vis the Attorney General's right to make opinions:
One of the first things we learned and our kids learn in government class is the separation of powers, the idea that our three branches of government -- the executive, legislative and judicial -- have different responsibilities and that no one branch is more powerful than the others.
Hmm...why do you think it is that there is no mention of these cancellation letters anywhere on the SOS website? There's plenty of news releases about the mobile branch office going to South Lyon and the Michigan State Fair. But nothing for people wondering if they're going to be allowed to vote? What's with the secrecy? Could it be Sec. Land is trying to pull a fast one?

BTW, I wonder how many of those cancellation letters were sent to college students or active duty military personnel? Also - does this mean voters will be cancelled before or after the 2008 election? Not entirely clear from the letter.
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SoS voter cancellation mailing update
A couple of additonal notes:

1) When I talked to Chris Thomas last month, he told me that nothing would be done with the cards before the November election.  Obviously, he was either overruled or he misinformed me.  I'm betting on the former, and that this process is driven by political considerations alone.

Lesson:  don't depend on the non-political staff to stand up to the hacks.

2) When the mailing was first done, I guessed the total cost at $2 million.  The entirely political public information aide, Kelly Chesney, informed Gongwer that it had cost only $1.5 million.  I filed a FOIA request for an accounting.  They stalled to the last possible day, going so far as running the envelope through the postage meter on the last legal day to reply, but apparently not giving it to the USPS until two days later.  The answer?  $1.969 million, with a few costs left out, because they claim they don't have records.

Lesson:  my off-the-cuff guess is a more reliable guide to SoS expenditures than their official statements made in reply.

Another view: maybe they're grossly incompetent.
At the same time the Secretary of State is pursuing their partisan agenda, and lying about the cost, it's worth noting that they also wasted a substantial amount of money, in a way that didn't help them or hurt anybody other than taxpayers.

The original postcard, under careful examination, was NOT mailed at the lowest First Class presort rate, but at about the same cost per piece as Aunt Emma pays when she mails postcards back from Florida.

Rather than print "AUTO", "Presort" and include the 9-digit ZIP on each piece, the SoS simply printed them up and dropped them at the USPS.  (They sorted them by 5-digit ZIP, which Aunt Emma could handle too.)

The result was paying 22.3 cents per piece, barely any discount at all from the 24 cents paid one-at-a-time by the rest of us.  If they had bothered to prepare the mailing competently, it would have cost 18.6 cents per piece - $280,000 less.

The work involved in pre-sort would have taken my shop about 8 hours and cost about $1000.  But, of course, they were in a hurry.  And it was only federal money that was spent, not general fund.

[ Parent ]
Whatever you think they're doing - you overestimate them
I just exchanged emails with Chris Thomas, who confirmed in general terms what I had heard:  They've actually gotten back 500,000+ cards through the mail, but because of their lack of preparation they only mailed 230,000 "cancellation" letters.

As I read state law, they're barred from sending any more letters until after November 7.

The paranoid among our readers will immediately guess they're only sending letters to Democratic precincts, not Republican ones.  I can assure you such a step is far beyond their competence.

I have an employee who is going to visit the warehouse where the cards are stored, so we have more sense of how they've been sorted, and exactly what steps the SoS appears to be taking.  Based on reports I've heard that the only workers who can be freed from higher-priority election management problems are brain-damaged and unsupervised temps, I expect whatever they're doing will be useless and ineffective.

The cluelessness level seems very high down in Terri Land's shop.

[ Parent ]
All right...
So what do we need to do about it?

IS there any action items?

I'm really confused...

Pray for the dead, fight like hell for the living. - Mother Jones

Action items
Two in particular come to mind:

1. Tell MSM correspondents you know about this and urge them to look into it.

2. Help elect a new Secretary of State who doesn't try to push people off the voter rolls under the cover of night.

"Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never." - Winston S. Churchill

[ Parent ]
a better action plan
sue the SOS office to:

1) get an injunction against any purging of names from the voter rolls until the information can be verified under the guidelines set down by the law

2) Do not allow the release of the names under FOIA until after the election so Republicans can not use this list to tie up Democratic precincts with challenges to voters.

The Justice caucus and a battalion of lawyers should be on this right now.

[ Parent ]
A little late for all that
The actual purge from the voter rolls doesn't occur until 2009, unless things start getting REALLY weird.  The effect on 11/2006 will be to create confusion, and give the Republicans an argument that (for example) every student in a dorm is illegally registered, since their cards were returned.  (I don't know if they really were returned, since the USPS is almost as inconsistent as the SoS.)

As far as not releasing the names - fat chance.  I already have a CD from the SoS, and I bet the only reason that got me a copy was to provide cover for the copy they gave to Matt's buddy Saul.

The best legal argument is that the SoS has no authority under state law to pursue such cancellations - it's a power given only to local Clerks.  That needs to be pushed by a municipal Clerk, I think.  I'd suggest the Clerks of Ann Arbor, Lansing, East Lansing, all of whom are aware of the situation.

I don't know Winfrey in Detroit, but if somebody is close to her, she'd be helpful too.  Now, if somebody will just get the ball rolling. . . .

[ Parent ]
I'll talk to Kaltenbach here in Saginaw
and get her on board with this...

[ Parent ]
On another note
If you have a copy of the names...we should get that list out and use it to challenge Republican districts if they play any games on election day...

Stationing a bunch of poll challengers in heavy Repug districts should get their temperature up...

[ Parent ]
Re: Voter Reg
So, I'm going to admit right off the bat that I haven't paid close enough attention to this from the beginning, but, I am curious what's going on.  Here's my situation:

I graduated from MSU last year.  While in school, I lived and voted in Lansing.  I also maintained my "home" address in Dearborn (I've had many a conversation about that whole 2 addresses debocle with MG).  About 2 months ago, I moved to a new apartment, still in Lansing.

Now, I'm not aware of recieving the original postcard, although I've encountered people who have.  It may have been sent to either my old school address or home address and it just didn't catch up with my mail forward request. 

Anyway, less than a week ago I was greeted by the same letter you've diclosed here, suggesting that perhaps I shouldn't be voting in Lansing anymore (although they sent it to my new address, still in Lansing.)  I assumed, perhaps incorrectly, that they simply didn't want me voting at the wrong precinct. 

So, and again I haven't followed this issue closely, are you suggesting something more dubious is going on and what, if anything, do I need to do to ensure I can vote in November?

In your case, you should go to MI Secretary of State, and make sure they have your current address.

In general, they're going to use this to challenge voters. They target some precincts, give one of their stooges a list of all the people whose cards came back to SOS, and they will challenge their right to vote. Some people will have proof they're in the right place, and will be forced to cast challenged ballots (which will be counted, presuming the Election supervisor knows what she is doing). But for a lot of these people, they'll be forced to cast provisional ballots, which won't be counted.

It's basically a ploy the Republicans are going to use to drive down turnout in select high dem precincts. If they can't force a lot of people to cast provisional ballots, they'll at least cause a commotion and hold up the line.

[ Parent ]
I sure hope
the MDP has plans in progress to deal with the mess the Amway guy's folks will try and toss at us. We need a set of knowledgable challengers representing Democratic interests at every polling place.

We also better be ready to help people waiting in line (give a water bottle, let them use a cell phone to let someone know where they are, etc.) and ready to get the MSM's attention to the long lines and targeted challenges.

"The truth is rarely pure and never simple." The Importance of Being Earnest, Act I, Oscar Wilde, 1895

[ Parent ]
There will be challengers
But I worry we won't be able to get the same number we had out in 2004. Plus, we had a number of out of state volunteers in 2004, which we won't get this time.

[ Parent ]
I'm worried too
I'll email you.

"The truth is rarely pure and never simple." The Importance of Being Earnest, Act I, Oscar Wilde, 1895

[ Parent ]
work to get people
to vote absentee...

[ Parent ]
I got the card long ago and threw it away.
Who do we contact to verify that they we are registered to vote in November?  Local Sec. of State?

"The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness." John Kenneth Galbraith

go the the web site
there's an online check.

If you got the card, you are registered.

[ Parent ]
Thank You
I went and double checked everyone in this household.  We are still registered.

"The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness." John Kenneth Galbraith

[ Parent ]

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