Brief

League of Women Voters lawsuit seeks to reactivate over 31,000 purged voters

By: - December 23, 2021 5:00 am
"I voted" stickers in Primrose (Photo by Henry Redman)

“I voted” stickers in Primrose (Photo by Henry Redman)

The League of Women Voters of Wisconsin, represented by the Fair Elections Center, Law Forward and Stafford Rosenbaum, LLP, filed suit in federal court on Wednesday to reinstate 31,854 registered Wisconsin voters who were purged from the voter rolls in July 2021. The voters were not provided notice before they were deactivated, and therefore, the League argues, were unlawfully removed from the rolls.

“Because these voters were not notified that their registration had changed, they could show up to the polls without the needed proof of residency to successfully complete a same-day registration,” said Debra Cronmiller, the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin’s executive director. “Losing the opportunity to cast a ballot due to an administrative oversight is too high a price to pay. These voters’ registrations must be reinstated, and adequate notice must be given to all future voters identified for purging as a part of list maintenance.”

The Wisconsin Election Commission’s actions in purging the voters are in violation of the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of due process, the League argues in it’s complaint to the U.S. District Court of the Western District of Wisconsin.

“Voter list maintenance is an important part of election administration, and it must always be performed using reliable data and adequate opportunity for voters to respond,” said Celina Stewart, chief counsel of the League of Women Voters of the United States. “Voters must have some control around their registration status every step of the way.”

“The Wisconsin Elections Commission could deactivate these voters’ registrations after providing them with notice and giving them an opportunity to respond. But they never did that, so they cannot purge them,” said Jon Sherman, litigation director and senior counsel at Fair Elections Center. “The passage of two years since the first round of this litigation does not mean the requirement to give voters notice is somehow waived. Time does not heal constitutional wounds.”

“We can all agree that a voter should not be made ineligible to vote without the notice guaranteed by the Constitution,” said Dan Lenz, staff counsel at Law Forward Inc.

“A voter’s registration to vote in Wisconsin is a constitutionally protected interest. That right cannot be taken away from any Wisconsin voter without an appropriate process. The state failed to follow that process, and so we are going back to court to ensure that the Wisconsin Elections Commission gets the message loud and clear that they must abide by the US Constitution,” said Doug Poland, partner at Stafford Rosenbaum, which is representing the League, and co-chair of its Election and Political Law team.

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Ruth Conniff
Ruth Conniff

Ruth Conniff is Editor-in-chief of the Wisconsin Examiner. She formerly served as Editor-in-chief of The Progressive Magazine where she worked for many years from both Madison and Washington, DC. Shortly after Donald Trump took office she moved with her family to Oaxaca, Mexico, and covered U.S./Mexico relations, the migrant caravan, and Mexico’s efforts to grapple with Trump. Conniff is a frequent guest on MSNBC and has appeared on Good Morning America, Democracy Now!, Wisconsin Public Radio, CNN, Fox News and many other radio and television outlets. She has also written for The Nation, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Los Angeles Times, among other publications. She graduated from Yale University in 1990, where she ran track and edited the campus magazine The New Journal. She lives in Madison, Wisconsin with her husband and three daughters.

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