Voting

MADISON, WI – The Wisconsin Elections Commission announced yesterday it has deactivated  more than 205,000 voter registrations through two separate voter list maintenance processes.  

“The first group of more than 174,000 voters we deactivated have not voted in the past four years  and did not respond to a mailing,” said Meagan Wolfe, administrator of the Wisconsin Elections  Commission. “This deactivation process is required under Wisconsin State statute. Many of the deactivated voters have moved and can re-register at their new address. Some of the voters had died and a few others asked to have their registrations canceled.” 

A second, separate group of more than 31,000 voters from the 2019 ERIC Movers List mailing were also deactivated on July 31, according to Wolfe.  

“The Wisconsin Elections Commission and its staff take voter list maintenance very seriously,”  Wolfe said. “The WEC is working every day to help local election officials keep the registration  lists current by identifying and removing deceased voters, people serving felony sentences and  others who are ineligible to vote.” 

2021 Four-Year Voter Record Maintenance 

Wolfe explained that the Commission is required by law every two years to conduct voter record  maintenance to identify individuals who have not voted in the previous four years and to  deactivate them unless they wish to remain registered. “The process is designed to ensure the  integrity of the active voter list,” Wolfe said. “It is not designed to keep any active voter’s name  off the poll list.”  

In June, the commission identified 186,982 registered voters who had not voted since the  November 2016 presidential election. The commission mailed “Notice of Suspension” postcards  to these voters, asking them whether they wanted to remain active on the state’s voter list. 

To  remain active, voters had 30 days to mail a return postcard to their municipal clerk, which 12,121 voters did. Voters who did not respond or whose postcard was returned as undeliverable by the  Post Office were deactivated on July 31, as required by state law.  

Here’s how the numbers from the 2021 Four-Year Voter Record Maintenance mailing break  down: 

Voter Maintenance Summary Statistics 

Total

Total number of notices mailed 

186,982

Number of notices that were returned requesting continuation of registration 

12,121

Number of notices that were returned as undeliverable 

62,853

Number of voters mailed a notice who requested cancellation of registration 

38

Number of voters mailed a notice who clerks determined to be deceased 

736

Number of voters mailed a notice who clerks deactivated for reasons other than being  deceased or at the voter’s request 

121

Number of duplicate voter records identified and merged together 

385

Number of voters who did not respond to the notice 

112,008

Total number of voters mailed a notice whose status changed from eligible(active) to ineligible (inactive) 

174,307

2019 ERIC Movers List Update 

On July 31, the WEC staff also deactivated all the remaining voters from the 2019 ERIC Movers  List, as directed by the Commission, Wolfe said. 

In the summer of 2019, the WEC mailed postcards to 232,579 voters who were identified by the  Electronic Registration Information Center as having possibly moved. The Commission voted unanimously in June 2019 not to deactivate voters within 30 days based  on the mailing, but to wait until after the 2021 elections to give voters on the list several opportunities to affirm that they had not moved. The Commission directed staff to create a poll book watermark for voters on the 2019 ERIC Movers list, which prompted poll workers to ask them if they had moved. Those who had moved were required to re-register before receiving a  ballot. Those who had not moved affirmed that by signing the poll book. 

In November 2019, the WEC was sued for not removing ERIC Movers List voters within 30  days if they did not respond to the mailing and request continuation of their registration at their  same address. The Commission maintained that the plaintiffs were mistaken, and that a  Wisconsin law regarding voters who may have moved did not require the WEC to remove those  voters. The case, Zignego v. Wisconsin Elections Commission, was finally resolved by the  Wisconsin Supreme Court on April 9, 2021, when the court ruled that the law applied to  municipal clerks and the Milwaukee City Election Commission, not WEC.  

Of the 232,579 voters on the original ERIC Movers list, 136,800 or 58.8% updated their  registration at a new address while 16,390 or 7% updated or affirmed their registration at the  same address.  

After the April 2021 Spring Election, there were still 69,441 active voters on the Movers List.  Of those, 37,587 were already scheduled to be deactivated as part of Four-Year Voter Record  Maintenance on July 31 because they had not voted in four years or responded to the postcard  mailing. That left 31,854 on the Active Movers List.

At its June 2, 2021 meeting, the Commission considered what to do with those 31,854 voters and whether to modify its June 2019 directive to deactivate them. After an extensive discussion, there were not four votes to  modify the June 2019 directive, so the Commission took no action. As a result, the WEC’s 2019  directive prevailed and on July 31 the remaining voters were deactivated. 

Voters Can Check Their Records and Reregister if Necessary

Voters who think they may have been deactivated may wish to check their registration status and  can do so on the MyVote Wisconsin website or by contacting their  municipal clerk’s office.  

If a voter was deactivated because he or she did not respond to the “Notice of Suspension” postcard or because of the Commission’s ERIC Movers List directive, he or she may reregister to  vote in one of several ways. Anyone with an up-to-date Wisconsin driver license or state ID card may register online up to 20 days before an election.

Voters with or  without a current Wisconsin driver license or state ID card may also register by mail up to 20  days before an election, after which they may register at the clerk’s office until the Friday before the election. Finally, any voter may register at the polling place on Election Day with proper proof of residence.  

Wolfe said that in addition to sending out postcards every two years, the WEC is continually  helping Wisconsin’s 1,849 municipal clerks keep the voter list current. “Working together with  Wisconsin’s clerks, the Commission is continually making the voter list more accurate,” Wolfe  said. “This has many benefits to Wisconsin voters and taxpayers, both in protecting the election  process and in the costs of conducting elections.” 

A report to the Governor and Legislature about the results of the four-year voter record  maintenance process is available on the Commission’s website.

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