Voter Purge Litigation
In November 2019, the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin, represented by Fair Elections Center and Rathje Woodward LLC, 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 percent 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 alleged 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 Fourteenth Amendment. It also alleged 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 asked the court to block state officials from removing these voters until after the state provides them adequate notice about how they could update and confirm their addresses.
In response, the Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC) told the court that it did not intend to deactivate the registrations of voters to whom it had sent the confirmation letter—a win for Fair Elections Center’s clients. Based on the Commission’s assertion, the court determined that the issue was not ripe for review and dismissed it.
The state court proceedings continued to the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Fair Elections Center filed an amicus brief on behalf of the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin, arguing that the ERIC data used to flag voters who had potentially moved was not reliable within the meaning of the statute at issue. In April 2021, the Wisconsin Supreme Court issued an opinion in which it rejected the plaintiffs’ argument that the statute applied to the Commission and required it to remove the voters.
Nonetheless, despite WEC’s assurance to the federal court that it would not deactivate the 31,000 voters who remained on the 2019 ERIC movers list, it did so on July 31, 2021.
Registered Wisconsin voters can check their registration status at https://myvote.wi.gov/en-US/RegisterToVote.
FEDERAL COURT LEGAL DOCUMENTS
Defendants' Brief in Opposition to Plaintiffs' Motion for Preliminary Injunction and in Support of Motion to Dismiss, or, in the Alternative, Stay (1.10.20)
Plaintiffs' Brief in Opposition to Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (1.31.20)
Complaint in New Case (12.22.21)
Joint Stipulation (7.13.22)
Declaration of Megan Wolfe (8.12.22)
STATE COURT LEGAL DOCUMENTS