With the Michigan's presidential March primary approaching, allegations of voter impropriety are heating up.
A federal lawsuit filed Tuesday in Detroit by Indianapolis-based Public Interest Legal Foundation alleges that 2,500 dead people are on the voter rolls in Detroit, Fox 2's Amy Lange reports. The suit, which does not allege fraud, says that the National Voter Registration Act requires that states remove ineligible voters from the rolls no later than 90 days before a primary or general election.
"The City of Detroit’s voter rolls contain thousands of ineligible deceased registrants, some who have been dead for extraordinary amounts of time, and the Defendants do not have a reasonable list maintenance program to detect and remove deceased registrants from the rolls," the lawsuit alleges.
Critics say the organization making the allegations is conservative and is targeting Democratic strongholds where people of color are the majority. The organization's president and general counsel, J. Christian Adams, is a former attorney for the Justice Department and served on President Donald Trump’s Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity.
The suit names as defendants Detroit City Clerk Janice M. Winfrey and George Azzouz, director of Elections for the city of Detroit.
Christy Jensen, the Michigan Democratic Party executive director, points out that the suit does not allege voter fraud. Having dead people on the voter rolls and having people vote under those names are different.
"This lawsuit is about making a clickbait headline," Jensen tells Fox 2. "To make voters have less confidence in what is happening in their communities, their clerk's office. And it is really a direct attack on people of color."
She also questions whether there are actually 2,500 dead people registered to vote.
"They try to purge the rolls where there are many people of color that vote," she said
Trump won Michigan in 2016 by 10,704 votes, thanks in part to a low turnout in Detroit, an African-American majority city that leans heavily Democratic. A reversal of that trend would benefit Democrats in the general 2020 election.
Detroit Clerk Janice Winfrey tells Fox 2 the suit is a "witch hunt" designed to disenfranchise the voters.
The Michigan Republican Party noted on Twitter that the suit claims more people are registered to vote in Detroit than are even eligible.
"We're just pointing out the incompetence that led to this ridiculous situation," Michigan Republican Party Chair Laura Cox said.
The suit also alleges that there are some instances in which people are registered multiple times.
"The Foundation’s analysis also found apparent duplicate and triplicate registrations for the same person," the suit states. "Such duplicate and triplicate registrations demonstrate that Detroit is allowing the same individuals to register to vote multiple times and thus is failing to implement a reasonable list maintenance program.
"Based on the Foundation’s research, defendants are not doing an adequate job checking for existing registrations and/or not cancelling previous registrations when found."