A judge has ruled the Wisconsin Election Commission must follow the state law regarding removing voter registrations for people who have moved.
Ozaukee County Judge Paul Malloy ruled on Friday in favor of the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) and three plaintiffs that the Election Commission must remove the registration of up to 234,000 voters, according to the Associated Press (AP), because the Commission failed to follow state law in removing the names after the voters failed to respond to a state mailer inquiring about their probable change in address.
State law requires the Election Commission to remove the names if they fail to respond to the mailer in 30 days. The Election Commission, according to the AP, had hoped to wait until after the Spring Election before removing names.
“I don’t want to see anybody deactivated, but I don’t write the legislation,” Malloy said, according to the AP. “If you don’t like it, then I guess you have to go back to the Legislature. They didn’t do that.”
Malloy’s ruling will likely be appealed with the case eventually being heard by the Wisconsin Supreme Court.
Rick Esenberg, WILL President and General Counsel, issued a statement Friday praising the ruling while noting the legal struggle ahead.
“This case is about whether a state agency can ignore clearly written state law,” Esenberg said. “Today’s court order requires the Wisconsin Elections Commission to follow state law and we look forward to making the case that they must continue to follow state law.”
To maintain an accurate voter registration list, Wisconsin and 28 other states participate in a program called the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC). When a voter conducts an official government transaction using an address different than their voter registration address, ERIC flags the voter to state election agencies as a “mover.” After an Election Commission review, a notice is sent out to the “movers” asking them to verify their address.
According to state law, “If the elector no longer resides in the municipality or fails to apply for continuation of registration within 30 days of the date the notice is mailed, the clerk or board of election commissioners shall change the elector’s registration from eligible to ineligible status.”
If the commission does not receive a response, then the voter is moved to “inactive” status. However, the Election Commission determined in June that such a voter will be moved to “inactive” status after 12 to 24 months, not after 30 days.
If the voters did move, they would be required to register to vote at their new address. Either way, state law allows individuals to register the day of the election.
Despite the ease of registering to vote, Democratic Gov. Tony Evers was quick to appeal to his supporters in an email alleging Republicans are trying to suppress the vote.
“Let me be crystal clear: This move pushed by Republicans is just another attempt at overriding the will of the people and stifling the democratic process,” wrote Evers.
Evers added that the lawsuit was about the 2018 election, not future elections.
“The truth is the GOP hasn’t moved on from the election even though it was more than a year ago,” Evers wrote. “It’s time to put politics aside and make it easier for every Wisconsinite to exercise their fundamental right to vote.”
Ironically, Evers leads a Democratic party that still has not gotten over the 2010 election of his predecessor and Republican majorities in both houses of the legislature.