MADISON — The Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC) has finally gotten around to removing more than 200,000 inactive voters from the state’s rolls — nine months after November’s hotly contested presidential election and two years after election integrity advocates urged the commission to act.
On Wednesday, WEC announced it had deactivated more than 205,000 voter registrations through two separate voter list maintenance processes.
Meagan Wolfe, commission administrator, said the first group of 174,000 voters had not voted in the past four years and did not respond to WEC’s voter confirmation mailing. A second, separate group of more than 31,000 voters from the 2019 ERIC Movers List mailing were also deactivated on July 31, according to Wolfe.
“Many of the deactivated voters have moved and can re-register at their new address. Some of the voters had died and a few others asked to have their registrations canceled,” Wolfe said, noting that clean-up of the rolls is required under state law.
That fact didn’t keep the politically divided Elections Commission from long delaying the removal of voters suspected to have moved out of their voting districts. The three liberals on the six-member commission refused to follow the law, insisting sweeping the system of ineligible voters could threaten voting rights.
WEC’s completion of the long-overdue deactivations show the fallacy of that argument.
The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) took WEC to court on behalf of Wisconsin voters. The Milwaukee-based law firm alleged regulators had failed to follow state law in 2019 after the commission announced it would not clean up the voter rolls until after the election. WILL won at the circuit court level, even as the three Democrats on the commission resisted the court order to comply.
In April, the Wisconsin Supreme Court in a 5-2 ruling effectively sided with WEC’s liberals, deciding that local elections officials, not the state commission, bears the responsibility of removing voters from the list.
Justice Rebecca G. Bradley, one of two conservative justices dissenting, said the Wisconsin Elections Commission is “responsible for the design and maintenance of the official registration list,” according to state law. “To maintain” clearly informs the commission of its duty to keep the voter rolls up to date, which it had done until 2019 when it decided not to.
WEC claims none of the voters on the original outdated list voted in the 2020 election.
The agency also claims it takes voter list maintenance “very seriously.”
“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,” Wolfe said.
State Rep. Joe Sanfelippo (R-New Berlin) said it’s “suspicious” that WEC waited until after November to complete the scrub. Sanfelippo, vice chairman of the Assembly Campaign and Elections Committee recalled state elections officials several years ago assuring that they would clean up the rolls because local clerks weren’t properly doing it.
“Now all of a sudden (WEC is) doing it again. They’re sending mixed signals,” the lawmaker said. “They either have the authority or they don’t. It’s obvious the games that they’re playing.”