MADISON, Wis. — A conservative law firm alleged in a complaint Wednesday that the Wisconsin Elections Commission broke the law when it decided to wait up to two years to make ineligible those voters identified as having moved.
The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty complaint attempts to reverse a decision by the commission before upcoming elections early next year, including the April presidential primary.
The commission decided in June to wait between one year and two years to make ineligible voters who had been notified they may have moved but did not update or confirm their addresses. That is contrary to state law, which requires that those voters be made ineligible after 30 days, the complaint alleges.
The institute warns that if the commission doesn’t take immediate action, it will file a lawsuit. Rick Esenberg, the group’s president, said in a statement that the commission doesn’t have the authority to “invent or amend policy contrary to state law.”
A spokesman for the Elections Commission did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The commission voted to make the change after it received complaints when it made people ineligible to vote even though they hadn’t moved. The decision to delay that step by up to two years was an attempt to be as accurate and confident as possible that flagged voters had actually moved, according to a commission memo circulated earlier this year.
Those voters would have at least six elections to either return the postcard affirming their address, complete a new registration, or affirm or complete a new registration at the polls when attempting to vote, the commission said.
Earlier this month, the commission mailed notices to 234,000 voters identified as potentially having moved. The multi-state Electronic Registration Information Center flagged those voters based on a review of documents from sources such as the Post Office and Division of Motor Vehicles that indicated the person may have moved.
Voters who do not respond to the postcard asking them to confirm their address will be flagged as movers. But instead of being made ineligible to vote after 30 days of the mailing, they will have up to two years to confirm their address.
That means they will not be made ineligible ahead of the February primary election for the state Supreme Court race and numerous local offices. It will also mean they will remain eligible for the April presidential primary and spring general election in which a Supreme Court justice will be elected.
Voters who are made inactive are able to re-register at the polls on election day if they have the proper ID and proof of residence required.