The state Election Commission continues to defy a court order to remove voter registrations of people who have been identified as changing their residence.
The order by Ozaukee County Judge Paul Malloy on December 13 was the result of a lawsuit brought by the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) alleging the Election Commission was not following a state law regarding the removal of the voter registrations.
On Monday, the Election Commission deadlocked on a partisan vote of 3-3 on the removal of the voter registrations in question. Republican representatives on the commission voted in favor of obeying the court order while Democrats voted against.
“It is astonishing that, once again, the Wisconsin Elections Commission could not agree to follow a straightforward court order,” said Rick Esenberg, president and general counsel for WILL, in a statement released Tuesday. “Court orders are not suggestions. They are not suspended because the losing party has appealed. They are to be followed.”
At issue is a state law which requires the Election Commission to remove voter registrations within 30 days if the voter fails to respond to a state mailer inquiring about their change of residence.
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. Voters whose registrations were affected by the state law could still re-register up to and including the next Election Day. Wisconsin has same-day voter registration.
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. When the Election Commission failed to follow state law, WILL sued on behalf of three Wisconsin voters.
The decision by Judge Malloy is currently being appealed by the state Attorney General Josh Kaul (D) despite a lack of a vote in support of an appeal by the Election Commission. WILL has requested the Wisconsin Supreme Court take the case directly.
In addition, the League of Women Voters, a liberal special interest group aligned with the Democrats, is suing in federal court to prevent the removal of the voter registrations in question.
Most media reports, including those from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the Wisconsin State Journal and the Associated Press, continue not reporting the actual wording of the law. This has allowed Democrats to falsely claim that the issue is about preventing Democratic voters from voting.
According to the Associated Press, as many as 144,000 voter registrations could be affected.
Democrats on the Election Commission said they would prefer to way for the matter to work its way through the appeals process before removing the voter registrations, according to the Wisconsin State Journal.
“This is a radical step and I think one we should avoid,” said commissioner Mark Thomsen, a Democrat, according to the Wisconsin State Journal.
On the other hand, the State Journal reports, Republican Election Commission members would prefer to follow the state law as written.
“We’re not taking anybody’s vote away,” said commissioner Robert Spindell, according to the State Journal. “Everyone has the opportunity to re-register on election day.”