A conservative legal organization seeking the removal of voter registrations of those that have moved claim in a new brief with the Appeals Court that the fight isn’t over whether the registrations should be removed, but when.
The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) filed a brief Friday with the Appeals Court in Madison in the case of the Wisconsin Election Commission (WEC) refusing to remove voter registrations from the rolls for people who have been identified as having changed their place of residence within thirty days as required by state law.
In the brief from WILL, the organization points out that it was not WEC’s plan to avoid removal of the voter registrations entirely because of possible inaccuracies, as some have claimed.
“Despite the mandatory language in the statute, WEC has decided that if voters do not respond to the notice, WEC will not change the voter’s registration from eligible to ineligible status until sometime between 12 months and 24 months after the notice was mailed and not responded to, rather than in 30 days as required by the statute,” WILL states in the brief. “WEC adopted this policy without passing a formal administrative rule with its concomitant procedural safeguards designed to give notice and opportunity to comment to the public. Important here though, WEC still made the decision that nonresponsive voters would be deactivated based upon the ERIC data – the question was when, not if.”
Wisconsin, like 28 other states, uses a system known as the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC) to identify when a voter conducts an official government transaction using an address different than their voter registration address.
After an Election Commission review, a notice is sent out to the “movers” asking them to verify their address, which they must do so within 30 days. The Election Commission sent out notices last October to 234,000 voters, but decided not to act on the removal of non-responders until after the 2020 election.
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.”
Voters in Wisconsin can always re-register later, if they haven’t done so already at their new address, including on Election Day itself.
As a result of a lawsuit filed by WILL last November, the commission was ordered to remove the voter registrations of those identified as having relocated. A subsequent motion from WILL caused Judge Paul Malloy of Ozaukee County to hold WEC in contempt for defying his order and fined the individual members of WEC who voted against compliance.
Despite no clear vote in favor of an appeal by WEC, Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul appealed Malloy’s decision. The Appeals Court in January issued a stay of Malloy’s order when the Wisconsin Supreme Court failed to take up the case directly.
WILL explains in the brief to the Appeals Court in Madison why WEC’s decision to delay the removal of the registrations could have a harmful effect on the upcoming elections.
“…the Defendants are enabling a voter who has actually moved to vote in at least two elections at the old address, quite possibly for a candidate in a district where the voter no longer resides and they are allowing absentee ballots to be requested in the names of persons who are no longer eligible to vote at their registered address,” WILL states in the brief.
The brief filed by WILL is also dismissive of the claim of some Democratic members of the Commission that WEC is not bound by the statute to remove the voter registrations since the statute predated the formation of WEC.
“Creating a new body of commissioners charged with that same duty to maintain the statewide list did not implicitly repeal that obligation. Indeed, WEC assumed it and its own behavior reflects that,” WILL stated. “Indeed, the absurdity of the arguments it must make to evade this legal obligation – contending that, while it ‘maintains’ the rolls, it need not change them or keep them accurate – reflects the fact that its position here just will not write.”