DETROIT (CN) - A federal judge ordered Michigan election officials to immediately stop striking the names of thousands of new voters from voter rolls simply because their registration cards were returned as undeliverable. U.S. District Judge Stephen Murphy III said the state's actions "violated federal law."
The judge ordered election officials to restore the names of 1,438 people whose names had been removed under this method since Jan. 1.
Michigan election officials had canceled or rejected the voter registration of anyone whose voter identification card was returned as undeliverable or who applied for a driver's license in another state.
Under federal law, election officials can only remove the names of voters who confirm their disqualifying address in writing, or fail to update their address and then don't vote in the next two general elections.
This year the state removed about 1,400 registrants due to the undeliverable ID practice and more than 70,000 who registered for out-of-state licenses.
Judge Murphy acknowledged that only a small number of plaintiffs will be able to prove standing over the driver's license practice, but added that "the court's analysis of the standing issue should not be construed to mitigate what seems to be the clear unlawfulness of what (election officials) are doing with regard to out-of-state driver's license applications."
Murphy declined to stop the state from using the driver's license method of disqualification, but he did halt the use of undeliverable ID cards as grounds for deregistration.
The ruling is a victory for the American Civil Liberties Union, which claimed that the state's practices violated the National Voting Rights Act and disproportionately affected transient groups, including students, minorities and poor people.
"We are thrilled that thousands of voters who were illegally removed from voter rolls will be able to vote in November's historic presidential election," said Michael Steinberg, legal director for the ACLU of Michigan. "Disenfranchisement undermines our democracy and (Monday's) opinion restores some confidence in our electoral system."
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