Wis. judge demands voters be purged
He says panel will be punished if it refuses to comply
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.