GOP files motion to stop seniors from getting AV applications
As the presidential election nears, and communities across the county pass resolutions continuing the long-standing practice of mass mailing absent voter applications to seniors, the Michigan Republican Party yesterday asked the Michigan Court of Appeals to speed up a decision that would end the practice, potentially making this the first presidential election many senior citizens would not automatically be sent an AV application form.
“I am fighting to give all seniors an equal opportunity to get an absent voter application form, no matter where they live or their party affiliation,” said Macomb County Clerk / Register of Deeds Carmella Sabaugh, who has over 24 years’ experience running elections and using technology to improve ballot access for all voters. “I don’t understand why the Republican Party is afraid that if more people vote, they will lose.”
For years the status quo for many local clerks was to mass mail AV application forms (not ballots) to all seniors age 60+ in their communities. Some clerks did, some clerks didn't. In 2006, Sabaugh got authority from the Macomb County Board of Commissioners to mass mail AV applications (not ballots) to seniors in Macomb County who would otherwise not get one from their local clerk, approximately one-half of the communities. Every senior in the county got an equal opportunity to get an AV application (not ballot) regardless of where they lived.
The Michigan Republican Party sued Sabaugh to block the mailing claiming "irreparable harm" if all seniors received an AV application (not ballot). Judge David Viviano ruled in Fleming v Sabaugh that Sabaugh's mailing was ok because her authority came from a Board of Commissioners resolution. The GOP, still trying to make it harder for seniors to get an AV application, appealed the case. It is pending at the court of appeals.
In a separate case, Taylor v Currie, the Detroit clerk did not get a city council resolution granting authority to mass mail AV applications and the court of appeals ruled that the Detroit clerk could not do so. Sabaugh asserts that until there is guidance from the courts or legislature, the only way to read these two cases consistently is that a clerk may not mass mail AV application forms to seniors unless the clerk first gets authority from a city, township, or county board.
Ironically, the GOP reportedly mailed 1.2 million AV application forms to “targeted” voters for the 2006 election, while trying to block Sabaugh’s AV application form mailing to all seniors.
As a result of confusion over the two court cases, the January 15 presidential primary was the first election that many local clerks did not mass mail AV applications to all seniors. Voter turnout was lower than it should have been. For example, in Clinton Township, the state's largest township, there were 10,549 absent voters in the 2006 November election or 28%. There were 7,853 in the 2006 August primary election or 50%. But in January, when there should have been more absent voters due to the cold weather and snow birds, there were only 3,056 absent voters or 23% because the local clerk did not mass mail AV application forms to seniors. If the status quo is not returned so that clerks again mass mail AV applications, then voter turnout for the November presidential election may be decreased.
In January, the Macomb County Board of Commissioners again passed a resolution, unanimously this time, allowing Sabaugh to mass mail AV applications (not ballots) to all seniors in 2008 who will not get one from their local clerk. Sabaugh is now visiting local communities asking them to pass their own resolutions authorizing their clerk to do the same. If a local clerk will mail an AV application to a senior, then Sabaugh will not do so.
So far in Macomb County the following communities have passed resolutions authorizing the local clerk to mass mail AV applications (not ballots) to seniors: Clinton Township (the state’s largest township), New Baltimore, Village of Romeo, Lake Township, Lenox Township, Roseville and Richmond City. In Oakland County, where all local clerks reportedly mass mailed AV applications to seniors in past elections, Birmingham, Farmington Hills and Troy recently passed resolutions authorizing their clerks to continue mass mailing applications (not ballots).
"Regardless of one's party affiliation, if more people vote, then our county's and state's clout will be increased. Many of our seniors fought for our Democracy or marched to secure our right to vote and the Republican Party should not be making it harder for them to vote," said Sabaugh.
A copy of Fleming v Sabaugh, the letter Sabaugh sent to local officials, and a sample absent voter resolution may be found at http://www.macombcountymi.gov/clerksoffice.