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Election Integrity News Blog


Landlords Sue City of Ypsilanti, MI, for Requiring Illegal Distribution Voter Registration Info

Thomas More Society Attorneys Seek Federal Protection for Violation of Property Owners’ Constitutional Rights

A group of landlords in Ypsilanti, Michigan, is suing the city for conscripting them to deliver voter registration information and paperwork to tenants. These landlords do not want to be compelled to deliver government messaging and the complaint filed May 11, 2023, by Thomas More Society attorneys maintains that they cannot be forced to do so. The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan is being asked by the landlords to stop Ypsilanti from requiring them to provide voter application forms and information about voter registration to new tenants. The lawsuit seeks permanent injunctive relief, barring the city from enforcing any provision of the city code at issue.

“Ypsilanti is violating the First Amendment rights of these landlords,” declared Thomas More Society Special Counsel Erick Kaardal. “The city’s choice to disseminate voter registration tools is in no way relevant to a housing rental agreement and should not involve those who own or manage properties in its implementation. Ypsilanti’s city code states, unbelievably, that landlords who fail to provide paper copies of voter registration information to their tenants are subject to a municipal civil infraction. It’s outrageous and it’s unconstitutional.”

“Ypsilanti, by compelling landlords to inform and provide information to tenants regarding where to register to vote, or by engaging them to act as couriers of the municipality’s ideological messages to prospective tenants, Ypsilanti is infringing on the rights of landlords,” explained Kaardal. “The First Amendment protects an individual’s right to refrain from speaking just as much as it protects the right to speak freely. Where the City of Ypsilanti’s interest is to disseminate an ideology or policy related to voting, no matter how acceptable to some, that interest cannot outweigh the First Amendment right to refuse being the courier of the government’s message.”

Kaardal added that the lawsuit straightforwardly charges the municipality with violating the civil rights of the landlords, whose choice to refrain from speaking is constitutionally protected alongside their right to free speech.

Thomas More Society attorneys were victorious in a nearly identical lawsuit in March 2023 against the City of East Lansing, when the municipality suspended and then repealed its law forcing landlords to distribute voter registration information to new tenants or face civil infractions.

Read the Complaint for Declaration and Injunctive Relief filed on behalf of Michigan landlords on May 11, 2023, in the United States District Court – Eastern District of Michigan by Thomas More Society attorneys, in Ian Greenlee, et al. v. The City of Ypsilanti, Michigan here.

You are cordially invited to join PIME and MFE meeting Sat., May 13, in Stockbridge.

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