LANSING, Mich. (AP) — A lawsuit has been filed to challenge what Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama's campaign says is an attempt to keep people facing foreclosure from voting.
The lawsuit was filed Tuesday in federal district court in Detroit by Obama for America, the Democratic National Committee and several Macomb County voters.
It asks for an injunction prohibiting the Macomb County GOP, the Michigan Republican Party and the Republican National Committee or anyone connected with them from challenging Michigan voters whose homes are on foreclosure lists.
Macomb County Republican Party Chairman James Carabelli denied last week that he had told a writer for liberal Web site MichiganMessenger.com that he planned to make sure no one on a list of foreclosed homes voted in his county.
"The story is not true, and I never said those things," he said. He demanded a retraction, but the writer stuck by her story.
Michigan Democratic Party Chairman Mark Brewer said past experience with other Republican efforts to challenge Democratic voters at the polls makes him skeptical Carabelli is telling the truth.
"I simply do not believe his denial. This fits the pattern we've seen here in Michigan," Brewer said Tuesday during a conference call with reporters.
State GOP Chairman Saul Anuzis planned to hold a 2:15 p.m. conference call with reporters to respond to the lawsuit.
Obama campaign general counsel Bob Bauer said during the Democratic call that the "lose your home, lose your vote" strategy, even if the challenges are unsuccessful, "creates an atmosphere of intimidation that could drive voters from the polls."
He said even people who aren't challenged may leave without voting because the challenges slow everything down.
State Republican officials deny there's any plan to challenge voters on those grounds and say the tactic doesn't make sense because the lists don't give them information on where a voter lives.
Despite the denials, Democratic organizations and liberal groups have created a chorus of criticism over Carabelli's comments. Brewer noted that more than 11,000 homes in Michigan received a foreclosure notice in July. The state has one of the nation's highest foreclosure rates, and figures show more than half of the foreclosed homes are owned by Blacks, a group that could favor Obama.
"Instead of offering solutions to this terrible crisis in Michigan ... they want to disenfranchise" voters facing foreclosure, Brewer said of the Republicans.
Macomb County has attracted a lot of attention from the campaigns and the media because the heavily populated area north of Detroit has long been a swing area in presidential elections. Both Obama and GOP rival John McCain have campaigned in the county, which could decide if the key battleground state of Michigan goes Republican or Democratic.
State officials say homeowners with a foreclosed home can still live there unless they are evicted or the home is sold by the lender, giving them to right to vote where they always do.
Voters who move within 60 days of an election also can vote at their old polling place, according to the secretary of state's office.
If voters move and change their address 30 or more days before an election, they must vote in their new precinct. If they change their address within 30 days of an election, they must vote in the old precinct.