On Tuesday, an appeals court in Madison, Wisconsin, blocked a judge’s ruling to mandate purging of more than 200,000 voters from its rolls by the Elections Commission. This decision places a temporary stay on a case that the Supreme Court had declined to get involved in just a day earlier.
While this move halts a decision that would unfairly impact Democratic minority voters, there remains a concern that confusion surrounding the case could still cause an issue with ballot access. Wisconsin election commissioner, Ann Jacobs, told Rolling Stone “I am obviously pleased. But we can’t rest on this decision.”
Why is this appeals court decision important?
When conservative group Wisconsin Institute for Law Liberty (WILL) brought the case to Ozaukee County Circuit Judge Paul Malloy, they were seeking to have more than 200,000 registered voters removed from voter rolls due to non-response to an October mailer regarding address changes. Non-responding voters were flagged by the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC) as possibly moved.
WILL’s argument was that in order to maintain clean registration lists, voters who had not responded to the mailer must be purged. This appeals decision assists in blocking disenfranchisement efforts, especially with registered black voters.
What happens now
While this temporary stay helps voters stay on the rolls at least through the primaries for local offices in Wisconsin next month, experts say some damage has already occurred. According to New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice, Wisconsin has seen a rise in voter purges since 2008. These moves could prevent more voters from going to the ballot because they feel “demoralized.”
WILL plans to fight the ruling, but the Wisconsin Elections Commission is confident in its appeal while urging voters to remain proactive in getting out to the polls.
Concerns regarding continued voter suppression in Wisconsin appear validated.
“There’s a dangerous assumption being made about whether a person appearing at a polling place will have the capacity to reregister and still vote in the election. There’s been no proven problem [with voter rolls]. But what we lose is so significant.”
“This is going to further signal to some voters that the right to vote is a political football that is going to be manipulated and used by partisan activists.”
“It’s not about cleaning up the voter rolls. It’s about denying peoples’ right to vote.”