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Wisconsin justice drops out of voter-purge case

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Daniel Kelly has decided he won’t play any role in deciding a lawsuit demanding state election officials immediately purge more than 200,000 voter registrations.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Monday that Kelly decided to recuse himself from the case if it reaches the high court. The newspaper said Kelly didn’t explain why.

Former Republican Gov. Scott Walker appointed Kelly to the state Supreme Court in 2016. He faces his first election this spring.

If the lawsuit reached the Supreme Court and Kelly didn’t recuse himself, he would have a say in whether more than 200,000 people would remain registered for his own election.

Kelly’s recusal decision reduces the court’s conservative majority from 5-2 to 4-2 in the case.

The conservative Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty filed the lawsuit in November. The filing alleges that the Wisconsin Elections Commission must immediately deactivate more than 200,000 voter registrations by people identified as possibly having moved. WILL argues the purge ensures people who aren’t properly registered don’t vote.

The case has huge implications for Wisconsin and its role in the November presidential election. Wisconsin is seen as a battleground after GOP President Donald Trump won the state by fewer than 23,000 votes in 2016. Most of the voters the institute wants removed from the rolls come from Democratic parts of the state.

People can re-register at the polls but Democrats fear residents won’t realize they’ve been purged, won’t have the proper identification with them and won’t return with it after they’ve been turned away.

A judge ruled in the institute’s favor earlier this month. The state Department of Justice, led by Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul, has asked a state appeals court to review that decision and has asked that the ruling be put on hold in the meantime.

WILL countered on Friday by asking the state Supreme Court to take the case up directly. The court hasn’t decided to take the case yet but the conservative justices are closely aligned with Republicans, making it likely they’ll accept the case and ultimately decide in WILL’s favor.

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