Judge Orders Purging of More Than 200,000 from Wisconsin Voter Rolls

December 16, 2019 by Dan McCue
Campaign buttons and swag in the Smithsonian Museum of American History. (Photo by Dan McCue)

A judge in Ozaukee County, Wisconsin, just north of Milwaukee, has ordered the state to remove 234,000 from voter rolls because they may have moved from the area.

The ruling by Circuit Judge Paul Malloy came after the state Elections Commission sent a letter to the voters in question, seeking to verify their addresses.

The October letter asked the voters to either update their registration or let election officials know they are still at the same address.

It was sent to the targeted voters based on information compiled by the Electronic Registration Information Center, or ERIC, a coalition of 28 states and Washington, D.C. that tries to keep voter rolls as accurate as possible.

The plan of the Wisconsin Elections Commission, which is comprised of three Republicans and three Democrats, was to remove non-responders from the state’s voter rolls in 2021.

Malloy’s ruling would now have them tossed from the rolls prior to the 2020 election.

As of last week, about 60,000 of the letters have been returned as undeliverable, the commission said. Just over 2,300 recipients told state officials they continue to reside at the same address, and about 16,500 had registered to vote elsewhere.

The case is being closely followed because Wisconsin is considered one of a handful of true battleground states in the 2020 presidential election.

Last month, three voters assisted by the conservative Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty. sued the elections commission, arguing state officials are obligated to remove voters from the rolls if they haven’t been heard from within 30 days of the letters being sent.

But Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul, a Democrat, said moving so quickly would result in people getting kicked off the roll who shouldn’t have been.

He’s also said because they’d then have to re-register, many of those erroneously stricken voters would simply sit out the next election.

Attorneys for the commission and the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin asked Malloy to stay his ruling pending an appeal, but he declined.

“I don’t want to see someone deactivated, but I don’t write the law,” the judge said.

He went on to say that the commission had set an arbitrary time frame for collecting responses — a period of 12 to 24 months — and that “it’s not that difficult to do it sooner.”

He closed a hearing on the matter last week by telling election officials if they don’t like his ruling, they should go back to the state legislature and have it change the law.

He also denied the League of Women Voters petition to intervene in the case.

Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat, took to Twitter immediately after the ruling to blast the decision.

“I won the race for governor by less than 30,000 votes,” he wrote. “This move pushed by Republicans to remove 200,000 Wisconsinites from the voter rolls is just another attempt at overriding the will of the people and stifling the democratic process.”

Malloy was appointed to the bench in 2002 by then-Gov. Scott McCallum, aRepublican. He has since been re-elected by the voters.

In Wisconsin, voters who are removed from the voter rolls, whether correctly or mistakenly, can regain the ability to cast ballots by re-registering online, at their clerk’s office or at the polls on election day.

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