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Wisconsin legislature asks court to toss out legal challenge to voter purge

Wisconsin purging more than 200,000 voters

Washington — Wisconsin's Republican-controlled state legislature is asking a federal court to throw out a challenge to the state's effort to remove more than 200,000 voters from its rolls.

Lawyers for the legislature requested the federal district court in Madison either dismiss the lawsuit altogether or put the case on hold while a similar legal fight proceeds through state court.

The motion was filed in a case brought by the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin and two voters last month that seeks to stop the removal from state rolls of voters who are believed to have changed addresses. The group and voters argue the purge violates their constitutional right to due process since letters sent by the Wisconsin Elections Commission failed to provide adequate notice about what voters must do to remain on the rolls, did not explain the consequences of not responding to the postcard and did not provide a timeline for voters to act.

The League of Women Voters also argues the deactivation of voter registrations violates the Constitution because the state told voters who didn't move and received the letter erroneously that they could confirm their addresses by voting in the next election.

But the state legislature argued in a filing on Monday that the case should be tossed because the plaintiffs can still make arguments in state court, saying they "rushed to federal court, choosing to put this court in the middle of ongoing state-court proceedings."

The other lawsuit addressing Wisconsin's efforts to pare its voter rolls was filed by the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, a conservative law firm, in November. The group sued the state elections commission after the agency recommended it wait several months before purging voters who failed to respond to a notice mailed by the state.

Wisconsin voters believed to have moved are sent a notice from the state elections commission to their voter registration address and have 30 days to confirm or update their information. Those who fail to take action are then removed from voter rolls.

The state sent notices to roughly 234,000 voters in October, and last month, a state judge ordered the commission to immediately toss out those registrations. The Wisconsin Elections Commission appealed the order and asked the court of appeals to halt the purge, though it has not yet acted on the request.

The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, meanwhile, asked the state Supreme Court to weigh in, and last week requested the lower court hold the elections agency and five of its six commissioners in contempt for not immediately deactivating the voter registrations. The law firm also asked the court to fine the commission and the members until they purge the state's voter rolls.

Wisconsin is a key battleground state in the 2020 presidential election, and the removal of more than 200,000 voters there could have a significant impact on the next electoral contest. President Trump won the state by nearly 23,000 votes in 2016.

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