The conservative Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty is asking an Ozaukee County judge to find the Elections Commission in contempt for failing to comply with his order to deactivate registrations for voters who may have moved.
Meanwhile, the group is seeking to block a federal lawsuit that could prevent voters from being stricken from the rolls.
The commission has deadlocked on what to do in response to Ozaukee County Judge Paul Malloy’s Dec. 13 order while the state Department of Justice appeals the ruling.
The filing seeks sanctions of $12,000 each day the commission fails to comply with the ruling.
“Court orders are not optional,” said WILL President and General Counsel Rick Esenberg. “It is astonishing to observe the Wisconsin Elections Commission act as if they are. Despite the wishes of some, Judge Malloy’s order has not been stayed and must be enforced.”
But Dem AG Josh Kaul, who’s representing the commission, “strongly disagrees” with WILL’s position and noted both DOJ and the conservative group have sought further review from higher courts.
“This case should not effectively be ended before the appeals process plays out,” Kaul said.
WILL filed suit in November seeking to force the agency 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. Those mailings ask recipients to update their registrations if they’ve moved or notify officials if they’re still at the same address. The commission had planned to give voters until April 2021 to respond to the October mailing.
DOJ has asked the 4th District Court of Appeals for a stay of Malloy’s decision, but the court has yet to act on it.
Meanwhile, the commission has until tomorrow to respond to a Dec. 20 motion WILL filed with the state Supreme Court asking the justices to bypass the appeals court and take the case.
WILL also has argued its filing with the Supreme Court puts on hold the proceedings before the appeals court.
In WILL’s filing in the federal lawsuit brought by the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin, the group slammed the suit as an attempt to “end run around a state court proceeding.”
“Having been denied an opportunity to intervene in (the original case in state court), and dissatisfied with the result there, Plaintiffs here gin up a false controversy, suing the government agency that opposed that result and asking a federal court to order the agency not to do what it does not wish to do in the first place,” the filing said.
WILL in its filing argues for a dismissal or stay in the federal case, because the state case is before an appellate court and the state Supreme Court is considering taking it directly.
An attorney representing the League of Women Voters in the suit was not immediately available for comment.
But the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin in its suit argued deactivation would violate voters’ due process protections afforded by the 14th Amendment.
The federal suit noted the mailing told those flagged as potential movers who had not moved they could confirm their address by voting in the next election. While that was true at the time the mailing, the suit argued, Malloy’s decision and subsequent order in state court could mean those who were waiting for an election to confirm their address could be struck from the rolls.
The complaint asks U.S. District Court Judge James Peterson for an injunction to prevent Malloy’s order from going into effect until after WEC resends an address confirmation mailing to those flagged as movers with notice of the 30-day deadline. The October mover mailing did not include information about a 30-day deadline because it was not in effect.
See an example of the October WEC mailing on page eight: