Judge Murphy: Michigan violated federal law

Judge Stephen J. Murphy III of the U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of Michigan ruled on Monday that Michigan violated federal law through two methods it uses to purge names from its list of qualified voters.

Murphy ordered Michigan election officials to immediately halt and attempt to rectify one of the two practices - canceling voter registrations for those whose voter identification card is returned as undeliverable. On the other practice of immediately canceling the voter registration of those who apply for a driver’s license in another state, the judge has yet to rule.

Stating the removals as a violation of the federal ‘motor voter’ act, Murphy said that according to the law, a voter whose registration information bounces back should have been allowed to remain on the rolls for a cycle of two general elections for federal office.

Michigan’s Secretary of State removed about 1,500 newly registered voters from its rolls this year after voter identification cards mailed to them were returned undelivered. Murphy ordered that those voters, along with any removed since 2006 on the same basis, must be returned to the rolls in case there is no other reason to question their eligibility.

Hailing the ruling as “a victory for Michigan voters and the integrity of the democratic process”, Michael J. Steinberg, legal director of the ACLU of Michigan said: “We’re thrilled that thousands of voters who were illegally removed from the voter rolls will now be able to vote in November’s historic presidential election.”

A spokeswoman for Land, Kelly Chesney, said election officials were still reviewing the Monday ruling. She said restoring purged names to the voter file “will be very labor intensive,” since the November 4 vote was drawing close. She added that “it’s conceivable that people could make up fake names and addresses and force election officials to put them on their voter rolls and keep them there for two federal elections.”

However, Murphy said that any burden that his ruling puts on state election officials is self-imposed.

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