Fasten your seat belts, 2020 is here and we predict it is likely to be a barn-burner festooned with all sorts of political chicanery, attack ads and half-truths — and maybe even some foreign meddling — as we march off to the polls for a bevy of elections, including a presidential one.
We didn’t need a crystal ball to make that prediction; the election flames have been fanned all fall with the House impeachment of President Donald Trump.
And throughout Wisconsin, the partisan fires flared when an Ozaukee County judge ruled that as many as 234,000 state voters — about 7% of the state’s registered voters — should be purged from state voter rolls immediately.
Democrats decried the ruling as a wholesale disenfranchisement aimed at college students and Democrat strongholds like Milwaukee. Republicans responded it was just keeping the voter rolls up to date and accurate.
U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi even chimed in with a tweet on her political account saying, “It’s beyond alarming that more than 200,000 registered Wisconsin voters will be prohibited from voting.”
That hyperbole earned the speaker a “Pants on Fire” rating from Wisconsin Politifact.
What actually happened was that those 234,000 Wisconsin voters got a mailing from the Wisconsin Election Commission in October after a check of state databases in the Electronic Registration Information Center, or ERIC, revealed that they might have moved and their listing on the state voter rolls might not be current.
Only 2,400 residents who got the letters from the state responded that they still lived at the address listed; another 16,500 had already re-registered at new addresses. Separately, 60,000 letters were returned as undeliverable.
But state election officials worried that as many as 7% of the identified “movers” in the ERIC report might be on the mover list by mistake. For that reason, they sought to delay the “purge” or reconciliation by between 12 and 24 months while they reviewed each case — a process that could last past the presidential election in the fall.
That resulted in a lawsuit from three voters backed by the conservative Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty. The group argued that, in the current case, state law required any revision of voter rolls to take place within 30 days of when the ERIC mailing to “movers” had been sent out. Voters who had not responded by that deadline, according to the suit, should immediately be taken off the voter rolls.
The legal dispute is over whether the ERIC list provides “sufficient reliable information” — as the Ozaukee County judge ruled — or whether the state Elections Board can take months to make sure information on the movers list is accurate.
Now, it’s off to the races with the state attorney general appealing the ruling, the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin filing a federal lawsuit and WILL asking the conservative-dominated State Supreme Court to take up the issue.
That may take weeks and might even bump up against the first election of the new year, in February. We hope the courts act quickly.
But voters who fret that they might, unbeknownst to them, be on the purge list — actually all voters — should take matters into their own hands and check to see if they are on the voting rolls.
It would take you all of two minutes to go online using computer or smartphone at myvote.wi.gov to check your status by filling in your full name and birth date.
In seconds, you can bring your information up to date and add your new address if you have moved. You can do that up to 20 days before an election if you have an up-to-date Wisconsin driver’s license or state ID card. You can even ask for an absentee ballot to be mailed to you for one or more elections.
If you would rather, you can call your municipal clerk to make sure you are in good standing and your address and polling place are current. You can get registered at the clerk’s office until the Friday before an election.
If all else fails, Wisconsin is one of 21 states where you can register or re-register at the polls on Election Day if you have proof of residence such as a driver’s license, property-tax bill, current utility bill, bank statement, paycheck stub, lease or workplace ID.
Your vote is important and it takes only a few minutes to protect it by checking online to make sure you are good to go on Election Day.
Take the time to do that and you won’t have to pay attention to the partisan polemics and scare stories that you’re bound to hear in the coming weeks. And don’t forget to vote.
– Kenosha News