Wis. judge demands vot­ers be purged

He says panel will be pun­ished if it re­fuses to com­ply

Richmond Times-Dispatch - - NATION & WORLD -

PORT WASH­ING­TON, Wis. — A Wis­con­sin judge on Mon­day found the state’s bi­par­ti­san elec­tions com­mis­sion to be in con­tempt and or­dered it to im­me­di­ately be­gin re­mov­ing up to 209,000 names from the state’s voter rolls or face fines for each day it doesn’t.

Ozau­kee County Cir­cuit Judge Paul Mal­loy said in his rul­ing that “time is of the essence in this case” and can­not wait for an ap­peals court or the state Supreme Court to de­cide the case. He also seemed peeved that com­mis­sion­ers hadn’t al­ready be­gun de­ac­ti­vat­ing the voter reg­is­tra­tions as he or­dered last month.

“I can­not be clearer on this. They need to fol­low the or­der,” Mal­loy said.

The state Jus­tice Depart­ment asked Mal­loy to put his or­der of con­tempt on hold pend­ing an ap­peal of his rul­ing, but the judge de­nied the re­quest. Mal­loy held in con­tempt the com­mis­sion it­self and its three Demo­cratic mem­bers be­cause they had pre­vi­ously voted against mov­ing ahead with the purge. Those three would each face a $250 fine for ev­ery day they don’t com­ply.

The com­mis­sion as a whole faces $50 fines ev­ery day the purge doesn’t hap­pen. Three Re­pub­li­can com­mis­sion­ers who pushed for pro­ceed­ing with de­ac­ti­vat­ing the vot­ers would face no penal­ties.

The com­mis­sion’s next meet­ing is Tues­day, hours be­fore Pres­i­dent Donald Trump was due to hold a rally in Mil­wau­kee. It pre­vi­ously dead­locked along party line 3-3 votes on whether to pro­ceed with de­ac­ti­vat­ing the vot­ers.

Ann Jacobs, one of the three Demo­cratic com­mis­sion­ers, told the Mil­wau­kee Jour­nal Sen­tinel that she be­lieves the judge’s ini­tial find­ings were in­cor­rect and that she does not want to be­gin tak­ing peo­ple off the rolls.

The com­mis­sion has asked ap­peals courts to put the rul­ing on hold while the le­gal fight con­tin­ues, but none of the courts has done so. The Wis­con­sin Supreme Court has not said yet whether it will take the case. Mal­loy said that’s ir­rel­e­vant to his rul­ing.

Mal­loy was ap­pointed to the bench in 2002 by Gov. Scott McCal­lum, a Re­pub­li­can, and he has won elec­tion three times since then.

Wis­con­sin At­tor­ney Gen­eral Josh Kaul, a Demo­crat, said he was dis­ap­pointed in the rul­ing. But

Rick Esen­berg, leader of the con­ser­va­tive Wis­con­sin In­sti­tute for Law and Lib­erty that brought the law­suit, said, “Court or­ders are not, and have never been, op­tional. It is our hope that to­day’s de­ci­sion will cause the Wis­con­sin Elec­tions Com­mis­sion to fi­nally fol­low state law.”

Those bring­ing the law­suit ar­gue that the com­mis­sion broke the law when it did not re­move vot­ers from the rolls who did not re­spond within 30 days to a mail­ing in Oc­to­ber in­di­cat­ing they may

RICH­MOND TIMES-DIS­PATCH have moved.

The case is be­ing closely watched, as Wis­con­sin is a bat­tle­ground state that Trump won by fewer than 23,000 votes in 2016.

Democrats are fight­ing the law­suit, say­ing the purge would un­fairly af­fect their vot­ers. Repub­li­cans say they merely want to en­sure that peo­ple who have moved are not able to vote from their old ad­dresses.

The af­fected vot­ers come more heav­ily from Demo­cratic ar­eas of the state.

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