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Wisconsin has become early 2020’s Exhibit A for political fights surrounding the updating of statewide voter lists, where escalating court battles over conflicting law, procedures and underlying data could lead to removing thousands of legal but infrequent voters.

The fray’s epicenter is a series of rulings by a county judge against Wisconsin’s bipartisan but deadlocked state election board, which has refused to immediately delete 209,000 voter registrations in a swing state with 3.3 million voters. The conflict may preview legal battles coming to other states. California, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Colorado and Virginia have all received letters from Judicial Watch, a right-wing group, threatening to file suits like the complaint from the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILL) against the Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC).

WILL’s lawsuit, where two of its three plaintiffs are donors to state Republican campaigns, seeks the immediate removal of 209,000 infrequent voters who were flagged for the WEC by an interstate data consortium run by top election officials. In March 2019, the WEC’s staff recommended taking 12 to 24 months to vet those voters because in 2018 after using the consortium’s analytics, 24,270 inactive but registered voters—or 7 percent of those flagged and delisted—showed up to vote, as a memo from the WEC explained. (Those voters could re-register under a same-day registration law after showing the correct documentation.)

The affected voters, whose numbers were slightly larger than Donald Trump’s 22,748-vote margin over Hillary Clinton in Wisconsin in 2016, were mostly traced to quirks in the state’s driver’s license database where addresses were extracted and used to verify a voter’s status. The bipartisan WEC initially decided to postpone removing the 209,000 voters, but has since split on party lines. (An appeals court has stayed the lower court’s purge order, and the state chapter of the League of Women Voters has filed a federal lawsuit to stop it.)

But Wisconsin is not the only state wrestling with voter analytics. In Georgia, the process used last fall to remove 300,000-plus old registrations (out of 7.4 million statewide) led to 22,000 voters being reinstated in December. The reversal came after Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger moved up the date up for Georgia’s data query by six months, restoring the inactive voters’ status. In Iowa, election officials pressed pause after finding a 100,000-person database that may have incorrectly listed former felons, who cannot vote until they reapply and regain that right.(Steven Rosenfeld)

Posted by The non-Conformist