Here’s how Wisconsin state statute says municipalities should handle the voting eligibility status of voters who have moved:
“If the elector no longer resides in the municipality or fails to apply for continuation of registration within 30 days of the date the notice is mailed, the clerk or board of election commissioners shall change the elector’s registration from eligible to ineligible status.”
The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, a conservative-leaning nonprofit legal group, filed a complaint this morning with the Wisconsin Elections Commission that argues the agency is failing to follow that law by not striking voters from the rolls after thirty days.
The complaint is a response to a June decision by the Commission to wait one to two years to make voters who have moved ineligible to vote,according to information from the Electronic Registration Information Center, or ERIC.
Mike Browne, Deputy Director at One Wisconsin Institute, explains the ERIC process.
“In Wisconsin, there is a system where, in order to try and have as accurate as possible voter lists, there’s a process whereby people who may have moved are sent a follow-up mailing saying that ‘We have information which suggests you may have moved, we need you to respond to this communication and tell us whether or not you haven’t moved [and] you’re actually in your same address,’ or also encouraging you to register to vote at your new address,” Browne says.
“If people are determined to have moved, or don’t respond to this mailing, the process would then be that they are removed from their current voter registration, they’re removed from the rolls, [and] they would have to re-register at their new address or re-register to vote once they’re removed.”
Browne also says that this system is not flawless.
In fact, both Browne and the Wisconsin Elections Commission , in its own statement released Wednesday, point to 2017 when tens of thousands of letters were sent to Wisconsinites who did not move. Many of those individuals were subsequently removed from voter rolls and had to re-register.
Browne argues that these errors, and the complaint, ultimately suppress potential voters.
“We believe the timing of this current legal action is suspicious because it’s happening in the lead up to the spring elections, and potentially there are hundreds of thousands of people who could be flagged for removal from the voter registration rolls and forced to re-register, even in cases when they haven’t moved, on election day, which creates delays, chaos, [and] frustration, potentially discouraging people from exercising their franchise, and we believe that is absolutely the wrong way to go,” Browne shares.
But that’s not the case according to Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty Deputy Council, Lucas Vebber. He says they had to wait for the Commission to send out the mailings before filing their complaint.
“[The Wisconsin Elections Commission] actually sent the mailings out to these voters earlier this month, so we needed to wait until they actually sent those out to those folks in order to tell them that they now, once they hear back from these folks or they don’t hear back, that they have thirty days, that that’s when the thirty-day timeline kicks in, so that’s why the timing of the action was filed right now,” Vebber says.
The complaint could affect up to as many as 234,000 registered voters.
In their brief statement released today, the Commission also stated that it is confident that it is complying with Wisconsin law, that the Legislature has not enacted any specific processes for the Commission to deal with voter information the state receives from the ERIC, and that the ERIC itself does not require member states to deactivate votes based on that information.
A spokesperson from the ERIC did not return a call seeking comment at the time of publication.
The Commission is scheduled to discuss the issue of how to proceed with voters who have moved again this December.