Voter purge lawsuit on hold, what's next?

Published: Jan. 14, 2020 at 10:54 PM CST
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We learned Tuesday, a Wisconsin appeals court put on hold an order to remove more than 200,000 names from the state's voter registration rolls.

The appeals court sided with the bipartisan elections commission after an Ozaukee County judge ordered them to remove the names Monday or be fined in contempt.

The lawsuit to remove the names argues the elections commission broke the law by not removing people from voter rolls who did not respond to an October mailing.

“Voter identification laws and other illegal strategies that affect who is allowed to vote, have become incredibly partisan issues,” said Michael Wagner, a professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communications at UW-Madison.

He says the lawsuit involving the purge is just the start of what is already shaping up be a toxic election cycle.

“There are more democrats than republicans, democrats tend to do better when turnout is higher and evenly distributed and republicans tend to do better under other circumstances,” said Wagner,

That's why a lawsuit like this in a battleground state like Wisconsin could be a game changer at the ballot box.

“We know from studies that this disproportionately affects young people, people of color and in general who tend to vote democratic, which is why we are so focused on it, because these are our constituents,” said Mike Moran, Chair of the Democratic Party of Brown County.

Moran says the party has been watching the lawsuit closely and if a ruling comes down that there will be a purge, there will be a lot of work for the democrats to do.

“If the purge does go into effect, I know the state party is looking at getting information on who was purged; and once we figure that out, we're going to be going through the process of trying to get a hold of every single person and see if they were improperly purged,” said Moran.

Wisconsin republicans we spoke to say they're not surprised by the decision to hold the order, but say justice will be served.

“I think as it works its way through the court process, eventually there's going to be a court that wants to follow the law, and the law is pretty clear that you need to have cleaned up voter rolls,” said Mark Jefferson, executive director of the Wisconsin Republican Party.

At this point, there will be no change to the state's voter rolls, but what court the case ends up in next, could mean very different outcomes.

“We would expect the Wisconsin state Supreme Court to favor the more conservative side, which would mean removing those people, those 200-thousand plus from the voter rolls. If a federal court gets involved, it's a little more up in the air of what the decision might be,” said Wagner.

According to the Wisconsin Elections Commission’s mover’s mailing list, there were 4,335 mailers sent out in Green Bay, 3,014 in Appleton, and 3,429 in Oshkosh.

County clerks are encouraging voters who think they may be unable to vote due to a potential purge to check if they are registered to vote.

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