The Wisconsin Supreme Court on Tuesday night signaled it would not hear oral arguments until at least late September in a case that could purge from the rolls more than 100,000 voters suspected of moving — which could delay a ruling until after the upcoming presidential election.
The court ordered, in a 5-2 vote, that the case will be taken up as part of the court’s regular schedule, with oral arguments beginning Sept. 29, at the earliest.
Plaintiffs represented by the conservative Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, or WILL, in the case had requested an expedited ruling on the matter and petitioned the court to decide on briefs and without oral argument.
Justice Rebecca Bradley, who voted in dissent along with fellow conservative Justice Daniel Kelly, said the court’s order Tuesday likely means a ruling will not be made until next year.
“Under this court’s typical briefing and oral argument schedule, the people of Wisconsin would most likely not receive a decision in this case until after every single one of Wisconsin’s 2020 elections has come and gone,” Bradley wrote. “The majority’s unusual order delaying oral argument in this case until at least September 29, 2020, renders a timely decision impossible.”
The case has worked its way through lower courts during the past seven months. Republicans want the Supreme Court to purge voters suspected of moving in order to maintain clean voter rolls. WILL says the state should keep its voter rolls orderly by removing voters who may no longer reside at the address indicated on their voter registration.
Democrats are against such a move because the system used to determine registered voters suspected of moving hasn’t always been accurate. They also say it would make it more difficult for their voters to cast ballots. Republicans counter that even if a voter is mistakenly identified as a mover and taken off the rolls, it would not impede his or her right to vote because Wisconsin offers same-day voter registration, which requires ID and proof of residence.
In October, the Elections Commission sent a letter to about 234,000 voters it identified as potentially having moved. It asked those voters to update their voter registrations if they moved or notify elections officials if they still reside at the same address. Because some of the voters flagged as having moved in a 2017 mailing never actually did, the commission opted to wait as long as a couple of years to deactivate the registration of voters who didn’t respond to the October mailing.
Voters suspected of moving have continued to update their addresses with the state, lowering the total number of people who haven’t responded to the mailing to around 130,000.
Ozaukee County Judge Paul Malloy in December ordered voters suspected of moving to be purged from the rolls, but after the Supreme Court declined to immediately take up the case, his order was overturned by the Wisconsin Court of Appeals in February, a decision that WILL appealed.
Conservatives currently control the high court 5-2, but that majority will shrink to 4-3 when liberal-backed Jill Karofsky replaces Kelly in August, which could present a potential roadblock to a clear victory for WILL.
Donald Trump won the state in 2016 by fewer than 23,000 votes.
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