Written By: Doug Poland
In November 2019, the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin, represented by Rathje Woodward LLC and the Fair Elections Center in Washington, D.C., moved to intervene in a state court lawsuit filed in Ozaukee County, Wisconsin. The lawsuit, which was filed by the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty on behalf of three Wisconsin voters, alleged that Wisconsin law required the Wisconsin Elections Commission to use information provided by the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC) to flag voters who may have moved, and to cancel the registration of voters who do not respond within 30 days to a letter sent by the Commission, asking the voters to update or confirm their addresses.
Initially, the Commission planned to give voters 12 to 24 months to respond. The state lawsuit sought to purge over 200,000 registered Wisconsin voters within 30 days of the letters’ mailing. But the statute upon which the suit was based requires “reliable information” of a residential address change. The data Wisconsin election officials are using is not reliable because it incorporates data that does not reflect a true residential address change. In the 2017-2018 cycle, at least 7% of the people listed in the ERIC’s “movers” list had in fact not moved to a new address.
On December 13, 2019, the state court denied the League’s motion to intervene and ordered the immediate removal of 234,039 registered Wisconsin voters from the rolls. On December 17th, we filed a complaint in federal court against state election officials on behalf of the League and two individual voters. The complaint alleges that the letter sent to voters by the Elections Commission did not provide adequate notice to voters that they would be removed if they failed to respond, or provide them with a timeline for responding, in violation of the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It also alleges that the letter violated the Due Process Clause because it told voters who had not moved that they could confirm their registrations by voting in the “next election,” leading them to believe they could use this option to avoid removal from the rolls. The suit asks the court to block state officials from removing these voters until after the state provides them adequate notice about how they can update and confirm their addresses. Doug Poland of Rathje Woodward’s Madison, Wisconsin office, along with the Fair Elections Center, represents the League in this ongoing lawsuit.