A conservative legal group alleges the Wisconsin Elections Commission has violated a state law by not removing from the polling list some 234,000 voters who may have moved.
The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, or WILL, on Wednesday filed a complaint with the commission alleging the agency is failing to follow state-mandated policies related to “movers,” or voters who report an official government transaction from an address different than their voter registration address.
“State agencies (composed) of political appointees and unelected staff do not have the authority to invent or amend policy contrary to state law,” WILL president and general counsel Rick Esenberg said in a statement. “Whatever the intent of the Wisconsin Election Commission’s action, it is illegal and must be remedied immediately.”
According to a WEC statement issued Wednesday, the commission is scheduled to discuss the mover mailings at its Dec. 2 meeting.
“The Commission is confident that it is complying with Wisconsin Law,” according to the statement.
According to the complaint, Wisconsin is one of 29 states that participates in the Electronic Registration Information Center, or ERIC, which flags movers. The commission then reviews the information to ensure accuracy.
The commission sends notice to the mover at the address listed with their voter registration information. Voters that fail to confirm an address within the 30-day period are listed as ineligible, according to the WILL press release.
Last week the commission announced it had mailed letters to approximately 234,000 registered voters who have moved recently.
A commission press release notes that while 2017 mailings automatically removed voters from the active voter list after 30 days, recipients this year will remain on the active poll list until after the April 2021 Spring Election. At that point, anyone who has not voted or re-registered will have their registration deactivated, the release states.
In 2017, WEC mailed postcards to 343,000 voters flagged by ERIC as potential movers. More than 300,000 people did not respond and were identified as ineligible to vote, prompting complaints from voters who argued their registration information was current.
WILL alleges that, by not following ERIC’s 30-day rule, the commission is failing to follow a statutory requirement.
Wolfe said Wednesday that while Wisconsin joined ERIC, the information center does not dictate how the state manages registered voters who may have moved.
The WEC statement also notes that ERIC does not require its member states to deactivate voters based on information the states receive from the information center.
WILL officials said a lawsuit will be filed if WEC fails to make immediate changes. Anthony LoCoco, deputy counsel for WILL, said the hope is the matter is resolved before the February spring primary.
“I think everybody can agree that having accurate voter rolls going into an election are important,” WILL deputy counsel Lucas Vebber said. “It’s important to maintain a voter list and make sure it is accurate.”
Liberal advocacy group One Wisconsin Institute said the move is intended to purge voter rolls ahead of the spring election, when conservative Supreme Court Justice Dan Kelly is up for election.
“The right wing in Wisconsin has a long and shameful record of manipulating the rules on voting for their own advantage,” said Analiese Eicher, the group’s executive director. “This effort to bully the Elections Commission into a back door voter roll purge is just the latest example.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.