An Ozaukee County judge ruled today that as many as 230,000 registered voters in Wisconsin must be purged from the voter rolls. State law requires that if reliable information is available that a voter has moved, the voter's registration must be pulled from the rolls within 30 days.  The state mailed postcards to 234,000 voters in October who were believed to have moved due to information in the ERIC (Electronic Registration Information Center), representing approximately 7% of the registered voters in the state. The database reflects voters who have changed the address for their drivers license or their postal address. The state Elections Commission has not been convinced that the ERIC data is reliable enough to purge voters within the 30 day time period required in the law, and had postponed removal of the voters until after the 2020 presidential election.

Circuit Judge Paul Malloy decided that this action on the part of the Election Commission was arbitrary and that the voters must be purged within 30 days. The judge also refused to allow the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin to intervene in the case. Both the League of Women Voters and the Election Commission announced that they intend to appeal today's ruling. In the long run this case is almost certain to come before the largely conservative Wisconsin Supreme Court. 

Wisconsin continues to allow same-day voter registration, so registered voters who are removed would still be able to re-register at the polls, or on-line before the election. The concern raised is that voters will not know ahead of time that they have been removed, and may not be prepared to register on the day of the election. Earlier purges of the voter rolls in Wisconsin have been problematic, and some voters were removed from the rolls by accident. 

State-wide the voters being purged represent approximately 7% of registered voters, but the percentage varies in different parts of the state. Concerns have been raised that since a large percentage of these voters are in the Madison and Milwaukee areas, purging these voters from the rolls may influence the election. Locally, 8.2% of the voters in Dunn County, 9.3% in Eau Claire County, and 5.9% of the voters in Chippewa County have received the mailings. 

A statement from the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin is attached. 

The League is very disappointed to not have been permitted to join in this case, and we respectfully disagree with the court’s decisions today. Our intention to join the case was to ensure that voters are not removed from the list because of inaccurate and unreliable data, and that unfortunately is what was ordered today,” said Erin Grunze, Executive Director of the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin. “We know Wisconsin can do better by its voters and that all eligible voters should not have to worry about being erroneously removed and having to re-register when they go to vote."

The election commission intends to  appeal and stated 

We will be analyzing the judge’s oral decision and consulting with the six members of the Wisconsin Elections Commission on next steps. A written order has not been issued yet.

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Steve Hanson

Steve is a web designer and recently retired from running the hosting and development company Cruiskeen Consulting LLC. Cruiskeen Consulting LLC is the parent company of Wis.Community, and publication of this site continues after his retirement.

Steve is a member of LION Publishers and the Local Media Consortium, is active in Health Dunn Right, and is vice-president of the League of Women Voters of the greater Chippewa Valley



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