MADISON — A years-long legal dispute over the state's voter rolls is back in court, with the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin urging a judge to reinstate the voter registrations of nearly 32,000 people.
The lawsuit came as a group of Republican state lawmakers told the head of the Wisconsin Elections Commission on Wednesday to provide them with a raft of information about the state's voter database by the end of the month. A Democrat on the bipartisan commission called each of the six Republicans who sent the letter a "partisan Grinch" for demanding millions of lines of data with little notice just before Christmas and New Year’s Day.
The lawsuit from the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin centers on when the state removes people from the voter rolls because it suspects they have moved. It is the latest chapter in a legal saga that began two years ago.
In 2019, the state identified about 232,000 voters who it believed had moved. It asked them to register to vote at their new address if they had moved or confirm they were still living at the same place.
Three suburban Milwaukee men represented by the conservative Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty sued the Elections Commission, arguing it had to quickly remove the voters from the rolls rather than give them two years to respond to the commission's inquiries.
In a 5-2 ruling this April, the state Supreme Court sided with the commission and found it was not required to swiftly take voters off the rolls.
By this summer, the status of most of the voters on the 2019 list had been resolved, with the voters registering to vote at new addresses, confirming they had not moved or canceled their voter registrations.
As of July, about 69,000 people remained on the 2019 list and the commission removed them from the rolls because they had not voted recently and had not contacted the state about where they lived. Of those voters, about 37,000 had not voted since 2016 and about 32,000 had not voted since 2019.
The League of Women Voters of Wisconsin on Wednesday sued the commission in federal court in Madison over the second set of voters, saying the commission had no authority to remove them from the rolls without notifying them of its plans.
The league, which focuses on voting rights and lobbies for liberal causes, did not sue over the 37,000 voters who have not voted since 2016 because state law requires the commission to remove voters from the rolls if they have not cast ballots in the last four years.
The league contended the commission could not take the other 32,000 voters off the rolls because it had not warned them they would lose their voter registrations if they did not respond to the 2019 request for information.
The group asked the court to reinstate their voter registrations and issue an order declaring the state had violated their constitutional rights to due process.
Regardless of what the court does, those who have been removed from the voter rolls can reactivate their voter registrations on their own if they have proof of residency. They can register to vote by mail, over the web, in clerks' offices or at the polls on Election Day.
Meanwhile, Republicans on the Assembly Elections Commission demanded detailed information about its voter database.
In a Wednesday letter, the six Republicans told commission director Meagan Wolfe she was "ordered" to provide them by Dec. 31 with details of where the servers that hold voter identification data are housed; technical specifications about the database; details on who built the database; logs showing who has physical access to the servers; 20 years’ worth of technology agreements and bid documents; and records of any changes to addresses, names or voting status for more than 7 million current and former residents of Wisconsin.
The demand was made by GOP Reps. Janel Brandtjen of Menomonee Falls, Joe Sanfelippo of New Berlin, Jeremy Thiesfeldt of Fond du Lac, Dave Murphy of Greenville, Donna Rozar of Marshfield and Ron Tusler of Harrison.
Brandtjen is the chairwoman of the Assembly Elections Committee and the others are members of it. The committee has helped oversee a review of the 2020 election and recently took testimony from election conspiracy theorist Douglas Frank.
Mark Thomsen, a Democrat who sits on the commission, said the demand amounted to "petty harassment" and called each of the six Republicans a "partisan Grinch."
"What kind of people make these kinds of extensive, even ridiculous, demands for documents and data on fellow human beings on the eve of Christmas and New Year's festivities?" he said in an email to the Journal Sentinel.
Commission spokesman Riley Vetterkind said the commission will respond to the Republicans' demands by the deadline they set.
Contact Patrick Marley at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @patrickdmarley.
Make your voice heard. Find and contact your representatives.
This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: League of Women Voters sues over Wisconsin's voter rolls