Michigan must not throw registered voters off the rolls, even if their voter ID cards were returned as undeliverable, an appeals court said Thursday.
With the election just days away, the court refused to stop an injunction ordered by a federal judge in Detroit. The case involves 5,500 people who have registered since January 2006, just a fraction of the 7.47 million state voters.
The appeals court said Michigan voters are properly registered when applications are approved and names are added to the rolls — not if they receive a card in the mail.
Suspending the injunction "would cause confusion, leaving recently registered voters who have not received their original voter ID cards unsure of their status and of what they need to do in order to exercise their right to vote," the court said.
In a 2-1 ruling, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said poll workers still can require people to show proof of residency when they ask for a ballot Tuesday.
The lawsuit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, the United States Student Association Foundation and the Michigan branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
"Great news for us. It's clear from that ruling that they view the purge practice as illegal," said Bradley Heard, a lawyer for the groups.
A message seeking comment was left with the Michigan secretary of state's office, which oversees elections.
The dissenter in the case was C. Roger Vinson, a federal judge in Florida who sat on the appellate panel.
"Despite what the majority contends, voter fraud is real and should not be condoned," he said. "There is obviously a strong public interest in the integrity of the voting process and maintaining confidence among the electorate that the system is fair.
"We do not serve the process well with our decision," Vinson said.