Wisconsin Voter Roll Transparency Challenged By Public Interest Legal Foundation
Wisconsin Voter Roll Transparency Challenged By Public Interest Legal Foundation

Authored by Steven Kovac via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

Public access to Wisconsin’s state voter roll is too restricted and too expensive, according to the Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF), a national election integrity watchdog organization.

Wisconsin Voter Roll Transparency Challenged By Public Interest Legal Foundation
Residents cast their ballots during in-person absentee voting at City Hall in Green Bay, Wisconsin, on Nov. 4, 2022. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

To remedy the situation, PILF is suing the Badger State’s chief election official, Meagan Wolfe, to reduce the $12,500 price for a digital copy of the state voter roll and to force her to provide the year of birth of the registrants on purchased data.

Wisconsinite Peter Bernegger, a computer analyst from the election integrity organization Election Watch, told The Epoch Times that the $12,500 fee is a hardship and a deterrent for every grassroots watchdog group trying to keep regular tabs on Wisconsin’s “bloated and often inaccurate state voter roll.”

A Federal Election Assistance Commission report found that, of the 622,370 address confirmation notices mailed to Wisconsin registrants between Jan. 1, 2021, and Dec. 31, 2022, 299,490 were returned as undeliverable.

Like Election Watch, PILF uses state election roll data to analyze the activities and programs of state and local election officials to ensure the rolls are kept current and accurate according to law.

In a complaint filed in the U.S. District Court Western District of Wisconsin on April 30, 2024, PILF attorneys produced evidence in which the Wisconsin Election Commission (WEC) acknowledged on its website that effective and accurate public evaluation of its voter list maintenance activities is impossible because the public does not have access to date of birth information.

Year of birth information is a key tool in confirming duplicate names on the voter list and eliminating ineligible registrations.

Despite its acknowledgment, WEC is still refusing to provide PILF with the requested year of birth information in alleged violation of the National Voting Rights Act of 1993 (NVRA).

The act requires states to “make available for public inspection and, where available photocopying at a reasonable cost, all records concerning the implementation of programs and activities conducted for the purpose of ensuring the accuracy and currency of official lists of eligible voters.”

WEC has repeatedly claimed that Wisconsin has been exempt from NVRA since it became law in 1993 because, before the statutory cut-off date of Aug. 1, 1994, the state had a same-day voter registration program in place that allowed all voters to register on Election Day.

At the time, Wisconsin and six other states received NVRA exemptions for either having no voter registration at all or having same-day registration.

North Dakota still has no voter registration for state and federal elections.

According to the complaint, the year of birth data on the roll is a record subject to the NVRA’s public disclosure provision because, as noted above, the act says “all” election records must be made available for public inspection.

PILF contends that, even though the privacy of the year of birth information is protected by Wisconsin statute, state law must give way to federal law because of the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

Prohibitive Fee An Obstacle

Ms. Wolfe’s refusal to turn over the year of birth data and a digital copy of the state voter roll at a reasonable price is seen by PILF as an obstacle to Congress’ objectives outlined in the NVRA.

Wisconsin’s top election official, Meagan Wolfe, speaks during a virtual press conference on Nov. 4, 2020. (Wisconsin State Handout via Reuters)

Congress declared that one of the purposes of NVRA is to protect the integrity of the electoral process and to ensure that accurate and current voter registration rolls are maintained.

Because it is purportedly exempted from the NVRA, Wisconsin is not required to make all voter list maintenance records public, nor is it required to limit records production fees to the cost of photocopying.

PILF attorneys assert that Wisconsin’s NVRA exemption “is invalid with respect to the law’s public disclosure provision.”

They cite the principle of equal state sovereignty, as affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court in Shelby County v. Holder (2013), as a precedent to support their argument.

“Because the NVRA’s Public Disclosure Provision exists to further the NVRA’s purposes and aid in its enforcement” it is as equally relevant to Wisconsin as it is to other states.

“Congress designed the NVRA to protect the fundamental right to vote, remove unfair registration laws, protect the integrity of the electoral process, and maintain accurate voter rolls,” the complaint said.

Wisconsin Should Not Be Exempt

PILF argued that the injuries Congress sought to remedy by passing the NVRA are “equally prevalent” in Wisconsin as in other states.

According to PILF, the U.S. Supreme Court’s Shelby County decision reaffirmed that all states enjoy equal sovereignty and that if Congress treats states differently, the differential treatment must be “sufficiently related to the problem [the statute] targets” and must “make sense in light of current conditions.”

PILF is asking the Federal District Court to order, the defendant, Meagan Wolfe, to produce the Official Registration List to the foundation in electronic format without the payment of “unlawful costs.”

In a written statement, PILF President J. Christian Adams said: “No state should be exempt from transparency. All states should be treated equally under the law and no exemption should allow certain election officials to hide documents relating to voter list maintenance activities.

This lawsuit is the first step to bringing the National Voter Registration Act’s transparency requirements to all 50 states.

Ms. Wolfe did not respond to a request for comment, but WEC spokesman Riley Vetterkind referred The Epoch Times to Wisconsin statutes that Ms. Wolfe is relying on as justification for her denial.

Tyler Durden
Tue, 05/07/2024 – 23:00

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