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Foreclosure Crisis May Threaten Voters’ Rights


WASHINGTON - Voters whose homes are in foreclosure could face challenges when voting in 2010 if Secretaries of State do not act aggressively to protect their voting rights, according to a report released today by the Fair Elections Legal Network (FELN). With an estimated 3.1 million foreclosure filings expected in 2010, and nearly two voting age adults on average per household, foreclosure could affect millions of voters this year.

Foreclosure can affect voting by forcing pre-election changes to a voter’s residence, making it difficult for displaced homeowners to demonstrate their new residence to registrars with current identification, and trapping voters in transition with state-imposed registration deadlines. FELN’s report, Lose Your Home, Keep Your Vote: How to Protect Voters Caught Up in Foreclosure,identifies potential voting problems people in foreclosure could face and lays out what can be done by voters and election officials to protect their vote.

“Americans whose homes have gone into foreclosure have already lost so much, and we cannot allow them to lose their right to vote too,” said Robert Brandon, President of FELN. “With historically high levels of foreclosure over the last two years, it is more important than ever for Secretaries of State to clarify the voting rights of foreclosure victims. We need to make sure people understand that if they’ve received foreclosure notices, or have been forced to leave their homes, they can still vote – in many cases using the address of their foreclosed property.”

The report found that in as many as 17 states, including California, which leads the nation in foreclosures, voters permanently displaced from their foreclosed homes may be able to vote from those locations if they have not established a new permanent voting residency elsewhere.

FELN has written to Secretaries of State urging them to outline and publicize the procedures that would protect voters undergoing the foreclosure process to ensure that no one is prevented from voting in this important election.

“We hope the Secretaries of State will read this report and will follow through on our request to clarify foreclosure victims’ voting rights,” said Brian J. Siebel, Legal Director of FELN. “Voting is one of the most basic rights for Americans, and we need to ensure that unnecessary barriers don’t prevent people from participating in our democracy.”

In 2008, some Secretaries of State issued advisories to local election officials and press statements to the public. But the report finds that there is still much that is unclear about foreclosure victims’ voting rights.

Each state has different rules regarding how long foreclosure takes, and whether there is a right of appeal or redemption. Each state also has different rules defining voting residence or domicile, grace periods related to moves, how people can update registrations if they move within a state, and how that affects people who have been forced from a foreclosed home. The interaction of these rules can be very confusing. The report provides a detailed appendix to help sort out these issues.

According to the report:
- By October 2009 one in eight mortgages was already in foreclosure and default.

- There were 2.3 million foreclosure filings in 2008, and 2.8 million filings in 2009.

- The foreclosure problem is worse this year, with an estimated 3.1 million foreclosure filings expected in 2010.

- On average, there are nearly two voting age adults per home.

The report provides state-by-state data on foreclosures, and a detailed fifty-state Appendix that provides foreclosure timelines, voting residency rules, and other information to election officials and voters.

For a copy of the report click hereFormore information, including state guides and tables, click here

 

 



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