Foreclosure crisis could cause votes to be lost

September 12, 2008 10:54:29 PM PDT
There's a new twist to the foreclosure crisis. People who lose their homes may not be able to vote this November, unless they reregister their new address.

Contra Costa County has a half million registered voters, but many of those won't be home on November 4th, thanks to the county's growing foreclosure crisis.

"People who've lost their homes could've lost their votes," says Dan Ashby, executive director of the Bay Area based Election Defense Fund.

"Wherever you've had sudden unexpected displacement of large numbers of people, you're probably going to have a large number of people who will be accidently or deliberately purged," says Ashby.

So far this year there have been more than 22,000 foreclosure filings in Contra Costa County. In many cases, the houses are empty and residents long gone. Some remain in the county, but many others move far away, perhaps without reregistering.

"We know this kind of thing undoubtedly goes on. People have their ballots forwarded from the location they have it mailed to," says Henry Brady Ph.D., a U.C. Berkeley Elections Expert.

Another issue has come up in Michigan, where some Republican strategists have threatened to send observers to the polls with foreclosure lists in hand. The plan is to challenge the eligibility of those forced from their homes by economic circumstance.

Contra Costa registrar of voters Steve Weir says that can't happen in California.

"You can be here and observe but you cannot physically challenge another voter. That would be strictly illegal and we would have you removed from that polling place," says Steve Weir, Contra Costa Registrar of Voters.

A larger issue in the East Bay and Central Valley may be that many of those areas hardest hit by foreclosure are traditionally Democratic. It's a factor that could play into a tight local race, like the District 11 congressional contest between Republican Dean Andal and Democratic incumbent Jerry McNerney.

"We want people to come and vote, whether they're foreclosed or not, but I don't see that affecting the numbers," says Representative Jerry McNerney, (D) of Pleasanton.

The Andal Campaign told us their biggest concern is possible voter fraud. That local registrars make sure those who don't live where they're registered, don't vote there.