Empower Wisconsin | Jan. 7, 2020
By M.D. Kittle
MADISON — The legal maneuvering continues in the case against the Wisconsin Elections Commission and its handling of the state’s voter registration rolls.
Last week, the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) asked Ozaukee County Judge Paul Malloy to hold the commission in contempt of court for failing to comply with the judge’s order issued last month. Malloy agreed with the Milwaukee-based conservative law firm that election regulators had failed to follow state law and he ordered the commission to begin removing as many as 234,000 names from the state voter registration system.
The three Democrats on the commission have resisted the court order, deadlocking the six-member panel. They insist the District 4 Court of Appeals must first weigh in on whether to stay the lower court’s decision.
Attorney General Josh Kaul, a Democrat, quickly appealed Malloy’s order to the Madison-based appeals court, among the most liberal courts in the state. WILL has asked that the case be moved directly to the Wisconsin Supreme Court, which likely is the final destination for the lawsuit.
“All parties agree time is of the essence here, so we need to bring final resolution of this for all parties as quickly as possible,” Lucas Vebber, WILL’s Deputy Counsel and director of Regulatory Reform and Federalism.
Liberals fear the conservative-majority Supreme Court will side with Malloy and WILL, requiring the Elections Commission to purge the voter rolls of the registrations of indviduals suspected of having moved out of their voting districts.
Meanwhile, the Republican-controlled Legislature on Monday filed a motion to intervene in a federal lawsuit by the left-leaning League of Women Voters, which aims to stop the purge of suspected outdated registrations.
State law requires the commission to give suspected “movers” 30 days to affirm they reside at the same address. If a voter fails to do so, the commission must remove the registration from the voter rolls. The commission unilaterally decided it has up to two years to do so.
In a year in which Wisconsin will decide an important state Supreme Court race and a presidential election, failure to purge the rolls could challenge election integrity in the Badger State.
Liberal WEC member Mark Thomsen told the Capital Times that the “law isn’t the law until the Court of Appeals says what it is …”
Despite the legal battle’s many moving parts, Vebber said WILL remains confident.
“The duty of the Wisconsin Elections Commission is clear, and we’re hopeful that in the end we will get a ruling that upholds the lower court ruling,” he said.