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Judge Hears 234K Voter Reg. Challenge  12/13 06:26

   MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- A Wisconsin judge will consider Friday whether to 
immediately toss out the registrations of up to 234,000 voters in a lawsuit 
brought by conservatives that could make it more difficult for people to vote 
next year in the key swing state.

   At issue is whether the state elections commission should have invalidated 
the registration of voters who were flagged as having potentially moved and 
didn't respond to an October mailing within 30 days. 

   The case is important for both Republicans and Democrats ahead of the 2020 
presidential race in narrowly divided Wisconsin, which President Donald Trump 
won by fewer than 23,000 votes in 2016. Liberals fear the voters who could be 
purged are more likely to be Democrats. Conservatives argue that allowing them 
to remain on the rolls would increase the risk of voter fraud.

   It's not clear how quickly Ozaukee County Circuit Judge Paul Malloy will 
rule, but either way the case is likely to eventually wind up in the hands of 
the Wisconsin Supreme Court, where conservatives control five of the seven 
seats.

   Three voters, represented by the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, 
brought the challenge  to the elections commission's handling of the matter.

   The commission, which has an equal number of Republicans and Democrats, is 
fighting the lawsuit. It argues that the law gives it the power to decide how 
to manage the voter registration list. It wants to wait until after the April 
2021 election before removing anyone, citing concerns that everyone identified 
may not have moved and that removing them would create confusion. 

   The commission also argued that leaving a registered voter on the polls, 
even if the person has moved, does not mean they will actually commit fraud by 
voting at their old address.

   The elections commission decided to wait longer than 30 days to deactivate 
voters because of problems in 2017 after about 343,000 voters were flagged as 
potential movers. More than 300,000 people who did not respond were 
deactivated, leading to confusion, anger and complaints. Wisconsin allows 
same-day voter registration, but it requires photo ID and proof of address. 

   A Milwaukee Journal Sentinel analysis, published Thursday, of the 234,000 
voters whose registrations are at risk found that some of the highest 
percentages would be in Wisconsin's two largest cities and areas with college 
campuses --- epicenters of Democratic support. Milwaukee and Madison account 
for 23% of the letters that were sent to voters who may have moved. More than 
half of the letters went to voters in municipalities where Democrat Hillary 
Clinton defeated Trump in 2016, the analysis found.

   Barry Burden, director of the Elections Research Center at the University of 
Wisconsin, said people who move frequently tend to be younger, less likely to 
be married, more likely to be non-white, and lower-income. And he said they're 
more likely to be Democratic voters.

   Burden said if the lawsuit is successful, "it could present a significant 
hurdle for Democratic campaigns, who will need to redouble their efforts to do 
voter education and registration."

   As of Dec. 5, only about 16,500 of those who received the mailing had 
registered at their new address. More than 170,000 hadn't responded, and the 
postal service was unable to deliver notifications to nearly 60,000 voters.

   While the lawsuit is pending, the commission has asked the 
Republican-controlled Legislature to provide clarity by passing a law or 
empowering the commission to create procedures on how to deal with voters who 
have moved.

   Wisconsin has about 3.3 million registered voters out of about 4.5 million 
people of voting age.

   Next year's presidential race isn't the only high-stakes election that could 
be affected by the registration lawsuit. Wisconsin has a February primary for a 
seat on the highly partisan state Supreme Court. The state's presidential 
primary is in April.


(KR)

 
 
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