Empower Wisconsin | Nov. 14, 2019
MILWAUKEE — With less than a year to go before the 2020 presidential election, a Milwaukee-based public interest law firm is suing state election regulators for failing to clean up old voter registration files.
On Wednesday, the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) filed the lawsuit in Ozaukee County on behalf of three Wisconsin voters. WILL made good on its promise to sue after the Wisconsin Elections Commission didn’t get its house in order.
“The Wisconsin Elections Commission was warned in October that they were acting contrary to state law by allowing voter registrations at old addresses to remain active beyond 30 days,” said WiLL President and General Counsel Rick Esenberg. “Instead of reversing course, the Wisconsin Election Commission has stubbornly doubled down.”
Esenberg added that the lawsuit is about accountability, the rule of law, and clean and fair elections.
The Elections Commission shot back that it is “confident” it is following state law. It insists the Legislature has not enacted any specific processes to “deal with information about voters which the state receives.”
WILL argues otherwise.
State law demands the commission maintain accurate and up-to-date voter registrations because Wisconsin has made it easy to vote and to register. Wisconsin is part of the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC) designed to flag individuals who have moved from their reported voter registration addresses.
In June, the commission unilaterally decided, contrary to state law, that it would not inactivate registered voters flagged as “movers” until as much as two years later, the lawsuit states. Statute says 30 days.
Lawsuit critics say more than 200,000 potential voters could be pulled from the rolls if the courts side with WILL. But eligible voters can register at the polls, with proper identification.
Failure to follow the law, however, could open the door to illegal votes cast in an election that could be decided by very narrow margins.
The Elections Commission appears to have taken an Alfred E. Neuman — What, me worry? — approach to WILL’s concerns, dismissing the law firm’s original complaint without ever dealing with the merits.