Wisconsin law firm asks court to punish agency for delaying voter purge
Three Wisconsin voters and a conservative law firm are asking a state court to hold its election agency in contempt of court and slap a daily fine on its commissioners until it removes 234,000 voters from its rolls in compliance with state law and a court order.
The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, the law firm, filed a motion with the Ozaukee County Circuit Court on behalf of the voters Thursday asking it to fine the Wisconsin Elections Commission and five of its six members up to $2,000 per day per defendant — a total of $12,000 — each until they purge the state’s voter rolls.
“Court orders are not optional,” Rick Esenberg, the group’s president, said in a statement.
The motion to the state court stems from a lawsuit the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty filed against the state’s elections commission after the agency recommended it not purge voters who failed to respond to a notice mailed by the state until 12 to 24 months after the postcard was sent, giving those voters “a chance to vote in both the general and following spring election.”
Under state law, Wisconsin voters believed to have moved are sent a notice from the state elections agency to their voter registration address and have 30 days to confirm their address or update their information. Those who fail to take action are removed from the voter rolls.
Notices were sent to roughly 234,000 voters in October, according to court filings, and last month, a judge ordered the elections commission to immediately toss out those registrations.
The Wisconsin Elections Commission appealed the order and asked the court of appeals to halt the purge. The six-member panel has not yet directed staff to take action regarding the list of voters flagged for removal and has deadlocked twice on how to proceed.
The agency said in a statement Monday it will “await further direction from the court of appeals and the Supreme Court of Wisconsin” before directing staff to take action. The conservative group has asked the Wisconsin Supreme Court to weigh in.
“When those courts provide direction, the commission will hold another meeting to discuss action to comply with the ruling,” the elections commission said.
In their filing with the Ozaukee County Circuit Court, the three Wisconsin voters argue “time remains of the essence to update the voting rolls before the upcoming elections.” Ballots for the upcoming race for Wisconsin’s 7th Congressional District have to be mailed by Thursday, and ballots for the state’s primary elections set for February 18 must be mailed by January 28.
Because the elections commission needs three days to deactivate more than 200,000 voters believed to have moved, the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty argues the voter rolls will not be updated by either January 2 or January 28 unless the court takes action.
Wisconsin is a key battleground state in the 2020 presidential election, and President Trump won the state in 2016 by nearly 23,000 votes, meaning the removal of more than 230,000 voters could have a significant impact on the next contest.
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