Photo by Saiyna Bashir, The Capital Times

The Wisconsin Elections Commission in a contentious meeting Tuesday deadlocked on a proposal to resend a mailing to voters who may have moved.

At one point, GOP appointee Bob Spindell said it was “disgusting” that Dem members refused to go along with his motion to move quickly to deactivate potential voters, while Dem Mark Thomsen accused his GOP counterparts of losing their nerve in the face of a lawsuit.

The deadlock came shortly after the 4th District Court of Appeals stayed an Ozaukee County judge’s order for the commission to deactivate those voters’ registrations. The appeals court also put on hold Judge Paul Malloy’s contempt citation and the accompanying fines for failing to comply with his December order.

The appeals court issued the stay while the commission was in closed session for an update on the litigation.

After returning to open session, Chair Dean Knudson indicated the stay meant the commission would “probably” operate under its June plan to handle potential movers.

Under that system, which is at the heart of the current legal battles in state and federal court, a watermark would be placed next to the names of voters identified as potential movers in the poll book to alert clerks to ask about a potential change of address. A potential mover could then confirm they still resided at the address flagged or re-register if they moved.

Under those guidelines, a voter who did not respond to a mailing inquiring about a change of address would not be deactivated until 2021.

But Spindell, a recent appointee of Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, suggested a different tack. He moved to immediately deactivate the registrations of those flagged as movers, send a letter to those who were deactivated and create an expedited process reregistering those who were deactivated incorrectly.

After the motion failed due to a lack of support from other members of the panel, Spindell shifted gears to offer a second motion “to give our Democratic commissioners and our Democratic friends a chance to tell us what they need to get 200,000 people off this list that should not be on the list.”

Under that proposal, WEC staff would send out a mailing to those flagged as potential movers as soon as possible. Those voters would be notified of the 30-day deadline and those who did not respond would be deactivated.

Knudson objected to the move, saying it would be “tremendously troublesome” to immediately resend a mailing and deactivate voters before the spring election because of federal and state deadlines for absentee ballots.

He instead asked staff to find a date this year that a mailing could be sent to potential movers.

But Dem Commissioners Mark Thomsen and Ann Jacobs both objected to carrying out the mailing.

The commission deadlocked on a party-line vote, blocking the proposed May mailing and keeping the current 2021 deactivation schedule in place pending a decision by 4th District Court of Appeals.

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