It is up to individuals to protect their right to vote
Should you lose your right to vote in the next election, because you moved across town? What if you moved to a different apartment in the same building?
If the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILL) has its way, people who moved since the last election without updating their voter registrations, will be removed from the state’s voter registration rolls. This could force election-day headaches for voters and poll workers, as people who thought they were registered, find they are not.
At worst, it could lead to tens of thousands of Wisconsin residents, stripped of their voter rights, for the crime of not responding to a postcard from the state election board, asking if they have changed their address.
Following its pattern of filing expensive, grand-standing nuisance lawsuits to promote their causes, WILL filed a lawsuit in Ozaukee County Circuit Court in November, seeking to force the Wisconsin Elections Commission to comply with a state law, the group argues requires registrations to be deactivated for voters who fail to respond within 30 days to a mailing from the commission.
The postcards asked recipients to update their registrations if they’ve moved or to notify officials if they’re still at the same address.
On the surface, WILL’s goals seem benign, if not admirable. After all, they just want to protect the integrity of Wisconsin’s election system, by ensuring the state follows the letter of the law – don’t they?
The answer to that question is a definite maybe, that leans more toward using malicious compliance to a poorly written law, as a tool of backdoor voter suppression toward the urban poor and minority voters.
Here in the more rural part of the state, people are generally less likely to move between election cycles. However, in more urban areas of the state, and especially in higher poverty areas, there is a much greater chance someone has moved at least once between elections. It is also likely a postcard appearing to be yet more junk mail, could either not get forwarded to a new address or simply be tossed into the recycling bin.
With Wisconsin expected to be an important swing state in this year’s presidential election, the elimination of a few thousand votes could make a difference, not only in the state, but on the national level, thanks to the all-or-nothing nature of the electoral college system.
Fortunately, even if WILL prevails with their nuisance lawsuit against the state election board, Wisconsin residents can still make sure they are able to vote in the coming election, by checking on their voter registration status. This is as easy as checking with your municipal clerk’s office or going on-line at myvote.wi.gov, and searching by your name or address.
The website gives you instant access to your registration status. If you aren’t registered or have changed addresses, you can do it quickly and easily online, without having to take time off work to go to the clerk’s office.
Voting is the obligation, and right, of every citizen. As with all rights, individuals have the responsibility to guard that freedom. Make a point of checking on your voter registration status at myvote.wi.gov prior to the election.
Beyond that, be prepared to present your photo identification and proof of residency, at the polls on election day.
Don’t allow nuisance lawsuits and voter registration purges silence your right to be heard.
Members of the Courier Sentinel editorial board include publisher Carol O’Leary, general manager Kris O’Leary and Star News editor Brian Wilson.