Con­ser­va­tives in Wis­con­sin: Purge vot­ers

Antelope Valley Press - - Front Page - By SCOTT BAUER

MADISON, Wis. — A con­ser­va­tive law firm on Thurs­day asked a judge to find the Wis­con­sin Elec­tions Com­mis­sion in con­tempt and im­pose $12,000 a day in fines un­til it im­me­di­ately purges more than 200,000 vot­ers from the rolls, a move Democrats are fight­ing in the key bat­tle­ground state.

A judge last month ordered the purge of vot­ers who may have moved and didn’t re­spond within 30 days to no­ti­fi­ca­tion sent by the elec­tions com­mis­sion in Oc­to­ber. The bi­par­ti­san com­mis­sion has dead­locked twice on at­tempts by Repub­li­cans to do the purge im­me­di­ately while an ap­peal to the court order is pend­ing.

Rick Esen­berg, leader of the con­ser­va­tive Wis­con­sin In­sti­tute for Law and Lib­erty that brought the law­suit, said the com­mis­sion must purge the vot­ers now. The judge in De­cem­ber ruled that the com­mis­sion was break­ing state law by not re­mov­ing vot­ers who did not re­spond to the Oc­to­ber mail­ing ask­ing that they con­firm their ad­dress.

“Court or­ders are not sug­ges­tions,” Esen­berg said on WISN-AM. “They are not ren­dered in­op­er­a­tive by the fact that you filed an ap­peal.”

Esen­berg filed a mo­tion Thurs­day in Ozau­kee County Court ask­ing the judge to fine the com­mis­sion and five of the six com­mis­sion­ers $2,000 each, or $12,000 to­tal each day, for be­ing in con­tempt of the order. The mo­tion does not name one of the three Repub­li­cans on the com­mis­sion who was not on the panel when the le­gal fight be­gan.

Demo­cratic At­tor­ney Gen­eral Josh Kaul, who is rep­re­sent­ing the elec­tions com­mis­sion in the case, said it “strongly dis­agrees” with ar­gu­ments in the con­tempt mo­tion.

“This case should not ef­fec­tively be ended be­fore the ap­peals process plays out,” Kaul said in a state­ment.

The af­fected vot­ers come more heav­ily from Demo­cratic ar­eas of Wis­con­sin, a key state in the 2020 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump nar­rowly won the state in 2016 by fewer than 23,000 votes and Wis­con­sin is ex­pected to again be one of the most hotly con­tested states this year.

Democrats fear forc­ing vot­ers whose regis­tra­tion was nul­li­fied to re-reg­is­ter would cre­ate a bur­den on them and hurt turnout. Repub­li­cans ar­gue that re­mov­ing the vot­ers would en­sure that the rolls are not full of peo­ple who shouldn’t be vot­ing.

Esen­berg’s group has asked that the con­ser­va­tive-con­trolled Wis­con­sin Supreme Court im­me­di­ately take the state’s ap­peal of the case. The case is cur­rently be­fore a state ap­peals court. The com­mis­sion has asked the ap­peals court to put the orig­i­nal rul­ing on hold, but it has not yet acted. The Supreme Court has not said yet whether it will take the case.

The League of Women Vot­ers of Wis­con­sin also has filed a fed­eral law­suit to stop the purge. That law­suit ar­gues that it would be a vi­o­la­tion of con­sti­tu­tional due process rights to de­ac­ti­vate the reg­is­tra­tions of the vot­ers with­out proper no­tice.

The elec­tions com­mis­sion in Oc­to­ber mailed about 232,500 vot­ers to tell them records in­di­cated they had moved and they needed to ver­ify that the ad­dress where they were reg­is­tered to vote was cur­rent. Of those, about 209,000 have not re­quested con­tin­u­a­tion at their cur­rent ad­dress or re-reg­is­tered at an­other one.

As­so­ci­ated Press

In this Nov. 6, 2018 file photo, peo­ple vote at Jamestown Town Hall in Kieler, Wis. Con­ser­va­tives are ask­ing a judge to find the Wis­con­sin Elec­tions Com­mis­sion in con­tempt for not im­me­di­ately purg­ing more than 200,000 vot­ers from the rolls.

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