Elections Commission Stands Up for Voters
By resisting judge’s order to purge voter rolls, state commission resists voter suppression.
The Wisconsin Elections Commission on Monday did the right thing by waiting to purge 234,000 voters from the rolls.
On Friday, Ozaukee County Judge Paul Malloy ordered the Commission to do the purge, but the Commission on Monday, on a 3-3 vote along party lines, decided not to go ahead with the purge – at least not yet.
The Democrats on the commission said it would be “irresponsible” to purge those names “if a Court of Appeals judge issues an emergency stay, meaning the registrations would need to be reactivated,” the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported.
It’s crucial that the appellate court get to hear the appeal, either by the Elections Commission or by the League of Women Voters, whom Judge Malloy, without good reason, would not allow into the case.
There are several things wrong with this ruling.
First, this particular provision of the law was a blatant attempt to make it harder for people to vote, most notably certain Democratic voters. Judge Malloy’s order seemingly corroborates this since, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the majority of individuals on the list were registered in college towns and Milwaukee and Madison, all of which tend to be Democratic strongholds. Students, poor people, and people of color congregate in these Democratic-leaning places.
Second, the partisan nature of this assault on Wisconsin voters is obvious not just because it came from the Wisconsin Institute of Law & Liberty but also because two of the three plaintiffs are major donors to Wisconsin Republicans.
For instance, Timothy Zignego, head of the Zignego road construction company, donated $14,200 to Republican candidates in Wisconsin since 1993.
David Opitz, himself a former Republican State Assembly member and State Senator, donated $8,095 since 1993.
Finally, the rationale for this lawsuit is based on a trumped up fear of legions of ghost voters waiting in the wings to illegally steal an election by voting in districts they are not registered to vote in, or voting more than once. This fear has been debunked by a myriad of studies that have found almost zero evidence of voter fraud in Wisconsin and nationwide.
Making it harder for people to vote in a democracy is a disgrace.
Frankly, the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty and its plaintiffs may prevail on appeal, since it’s bound to reach the Wisconsin Supreme Court, which tilts heavily in the conservative direction, to put it mildly.
But at least there would be an opportunity at the appellate level to review the arguments, and to allow the League of Women Voters a chance to enter the case.
If ultimately the Wisconsin Elections Commission is forced to go ahead with the purge, it has a moral obligation not only to notify all 234,000 voters that it is doing so but also to let them know, clearly and succinctly, what they’ll need to do to re-register.
And while I’m angry at Judge Malloy’s decision and at the anti-democratic (small “d”) behavior of the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, I’m not despondent.
Because I know there is tremendous grassroots organizing going on right now – by the League of Women Voters, by Wisconsin Voices, by Leaders Igniting Transformation, and by many others – to register and engage voters in Wisconsin.
Together, their work may prove more decisive than the hackery of the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty.
More about the 2020 Voter Purge
- What’s Next in Voter Purge Battle? - Ruth Conniff - Mar 2nd, 2020
- ACLU of Wisconsin Statement on Appeals Court Ruling Blocking Attempted Voter Purge - American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin - Feb 28th, 2020
- MKE County: County Increases Spending on Voter Registration, Education - Corri Hess - Feb 7th, 2020
- Does Court Ruling Mean No Voter Purge? - Shawn Johnson - Jan 15th, 2020
- Murphy’s Law: Why a Voter Purge Is So Critical - Bruce Murphy - Jan 14th, 2020
- What’s Going on With Voting List Purge? - Ruth Conniff - Jan 9th, 2020
- Nation Watches State Voter Purge Battle - Melanie Conklin - Jan 4th, 2020
- Elections Panel Deadlocks Again on Voting List Purge - Shawn Johnson - Dec 31st, 2019
- Data Shows Republican Voter Roll Purge Targets Democratic Voting Communities - One Wisconsin Now - Dec 23rd, 2019
- Barrett Says 35,000 City Voters At Risk - Alana Watson - Dec 21st, 2019
- Op Ed: Elections Commission Stands Up for Voters - Matt Rothschild - Dec 19th, 2019
- Court Will Consider Push to Purge Voters - Ruth Conniff - Dec 13th, 2019
- LWV Challenges Voter Roll Purge - Ruth Conniff - Nov 29th, 2019
- Lawsuit Demands State Purge Voter Rolls - Ruth Conniff - Nov 14th, 2019