Empower Wisconsin | Jan. 3, 2020
By M.D. Kittle
MADISON — Fed up with its failure to follow a court ruling, the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) is asking a judge to hold the state’s election regulator in contempt of court.
In the motion filed Thursday in Ozaukee County Circuit Court, WILL tells Judge Paul Malloy that the Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC) has refused more than once to comply with the judge’s Dec. 17 decision that the regulator follow state law and remove outdated voter registrations.
WILL is asking that the commission receive the maximum fine of $2,000 per each day that it has failed to comply with the judge’s order because the “failure to comply here is direct and deliberate …”
“Court orders are not optional. It is astonishing to observe the Wisconsin Elections Commission act as if they are,” Rick Esenberg, WILL’s president and general counsel, said in a statement Thursday. “Despite the wishes of some, Judge Malloy’s order has not been stayed and must be enforced.”
The toothless commission deadlocked again earlier this week on the question of following Malloy’s order. That means at least 144,000 voters who appear to have moved remain on the rolls. The will of the three Republican commission members who voted to follow the judge’s order was stymied by the three Democrats who voted against a motion to purge the rolls. In this case a tie goes to the liberals.
“This means the Commission will await further direction from the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court of Wisconsin. When those courts provide direction, the Commission will hold another meeting to discuss action to comply with the ruling,” the WEC said in a statement following the deadlocked vote.
Democrat Attorney General Josh Kaul, representing the commission, has appealed Malloy’s decision to the Madison-based District 4 Court of Appeals, one of the most liberal courts in Wisconsin.
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 …” As of Thursday, the appeals court had not ordered to stay Malloy’s order.
WILL urged the judge to act promptly in holding the commission in contempt of court.
“Time remains of the essence to update the voting rolls before the upcoming elections,” the law firm asserts in its motion.