Lost Home Not a Lost Voice, Official Says

"A foreclosure list is not a valid basis on which to challenge a registered voter at the polls," said Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler. (2007 Photo By Gerald Martineau -- The Washington Post)
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By Ovetta Wiggins
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 26, 2008

Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler instructed local and state election officials to make certain that voters who have lost homes to foreclosure know that they have not lost their right to vote.

Gansler (D) sent a letter this week to Linda H. Lamone, administrator of the state Board of Elections, after his office was notified about calls made to local election boards from people who were worried about their voting rights.

"A foreclosure list is not a valid basis on which to challenge a registered voter at the polls," Gansler wrote. "Under state law, a voter may only be challenged on the basis of identity; that is, on the claim that the voter is not who he or she claims to be."

Ross Goldstein, a spokesman for the state Board of Elections, said the state was contacted by officials at local election boards in Calvert and Prince George's counties who received calls from voters.

"If there is misinformation out there or if voters are uneasy, we want to address that," he said.

The concern comes amid reports that the Republican Party in Michigan is planning to use foreclosure listings to challenge voters. The Obama campaign filed suit last week to prevent such practices, although GOP leaders have denied any such plans.

Terry Speigner, chairman of the Democratic Central Committee in Prince George's County, said his phone "has been burning up" with calls about the rumor in Maryland.

"Some folks don't need much to cause them to not vote, especially if they think they are going to be embarrassed in public," Speigner said.

Thousands of people have lost their homes through foreclosures in the Washington region over the past few years, and election officials say it is important that voters are informed about the process.

Voters who move from their homes must update their registrations and vote in their new districts.

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