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Elections board goes rogue

Empower Wisconsin | Oct. 16, 2019

By M.D. Kittle 

MADISON — Wisconsin’s elections regulator disregarded state law demanding accurate maintenance of voter rolls, according to a complaint filed Tuesday by the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL).

“The WEC (Wisconsin Election Commission) Commissioners violated the law and abused their discretion when they interpreted statutes in a way directly inconsistent with” the law, the complaint states. 

Failure to follow the law raises serious questions about voter integrity and potential voter fraud leading into the pivotal 2020 election cycle. 

The commission uses the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC) to ensure accurate voter date. ERIC flags voters who move and WEC is supposed to send notice to the “movers” last voter registration address. 

Under state law, a voter has 30 days to affirm her address. Some voters do, many do not. If no action is taken within the period, WEC is supposed to change the voter’s registration status from eligible to ineligible. 

But commission members in June decided they didn’t care for the 30-day timeline. So they promulgated their own rules, extending the period to as much as two years before the agency will clean out flagged voters. 

WILL, a Milwaukee-based public-interest law firm, brought the complaint on behalf of three Wisconsin voters in Ozaukee, Washington, and Waukesha counties. If the agency doesn’t change its policy, WILL promises a lawsuit “will be forthcoming.” 

“State agencies comprised of political appointees and unelected staff do not have the authority to invent or amend policy contrary to state law,” said Rick Esenberg, WILL’s president and general counsel, in a statement. “Whatever the intent of the Wisconsin Elections Commission’s action, it is illegal and must be remedied immediately.” 

Election commissioners have raised concerns about the reliability of ERIC. Some have argued the 30-day rule disenfranchises voters. It doesn’t. 

The electronic registration information system is currently being used by 29 member states, and “widely considered as a reliable source of information,” according to the complaint. 

While the commission found cases where voters were errantly deactivated, the system tests at a 93 percent to 94 percent accuracy rate, the complaint states. And there are myriad checks, most critically Wisconsin election law that allows voters to register at the polls. 

Even if their concerns were warranted, the complaint states, the regulator cannot circumvent state law. 

“The WEC Commissioners do not have the power to set aside the policy decision of the Wisconsin Legislature in this regard and do not have the power to create election law for the State of Wisconsin,” the complaint states. 

The commission’s abusive predecessor, the state Government Accountability Board, was repeatedly reprimanded by courts for effectively writing, re-writing, or ignoring law. The GAB is the same government bureaucracy that brought Wisconsin the unconstitutional John Doe investigations, based on abusive rules and practices it put in place, often without statutory authority.

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