Brief

Wisconsin Elections Commission deactivates more than 205,000 registered voters

By: - August 4, 2021 12:28 pm
"I voted" stickers in Primrose (Photo by Henry Redman)

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

The Wisconsin Elections Commission ended the voter registration of more than 205,000 voters on July 31. The move complies with a state law that requires the commission to remove voters who have moved, died or not voted in four years from the active voter list. 

The removal of voters from the registration list has been a politically charged issue in Wisconsin, drawing lawsuits and accusations of disenfranchisement in a state in which elections can be decided by a few thousand votes. 

Voters who have been removed must re-register. 

“The Wisconsin Elections Commission and its staff take voter list maintenance very seriously,” WEC Administrator Meagan Wolfe said in a statement.  “The WEC is working every day to help local election officials keep the registration lists current by identifying and removing deceased voters, people serving felony sentences, and others who are ineligible to vote.”

In June, the Elections Commission sent a postcard to more than 186,000 voters who had not voted since the 2016 presidential election. The postcard asked if the voter wanted to remain on the active list and gave them 30 days to return the card to their municipal clerk. About 12,000 voters said they wanted to continue their registration, nearly 63,000 were returned as undeliverable and more than 112,000 voters did not respond. Ultimately 174,000 voters were removed from the list through this process. 

Another 31,000 voters were removed from the list because they are believed to have moved. This action is the end of a multi-year saga involving the 2019 ERIC Movers’ list — a database run by a multi-state coalition of election administrators that aims to track when voters have moved and need to update their registration to a different municipality or state. 

In Wisconsin, the ERIC list has been criticized for being error prone because of how the data is collected — sometimes listing someone who has moved because they registered a vehicle with the Department of Motor Vehicles at a family member’s residence, for example. 

GET THE MORNING HEADLINES DELIVERED TO YOUR INBOX

The 2019 ERIC data identified 232,579 voters who may have moved but the commission voted unanimously to wait until after the 2021 elections to remove the voters to give them multiple opportunities to clarify whether or not they had moved. 

This decision drew a lawsuit from conservatives arguing the voters should have been removed right away. Voting rights groups countered that acting quickly to remove voters would have wrongfully removed a large number of voters who were on the list because of an error. This April, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled that the Elections Commission did not break the law by delaying the removal. 

By this summer, more than 65% of those voters either updated their address or confirmed they hadn’t moved. Another 37,000 voters were included in the regular deactivation process because they hadn’t voted since 2016 — leaving 31,000 remaining on the movers’ list to be removed. 

More than 3.5 million people remain registered to vote in Wisconsin. People can check their registration status or register to vote at myvote.wi.gov

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Henry Redman
Henry Redman

Henry Redman is a staff reporter for the Wisconsin Examiner who focuses on covering Wisconsin's towns and rural areas. He previously covered crime and courts at the Daily Jefferson County Union. A lifelong Midwesterner, he was born in Cleveland, Ohio and graduated from Loyola University Chicago with a degree in journalism in May 2019.

MORE FROM AUTHOR