Contempt motion lands voter case back in judge’s lap

Malloy asked to sanction commission for not following order to remove names
Ozaukee Press staff

A case that’s garnered national interest will be back in Ozaukee County court next week after a motion was filed to hold members of the state Elections Commission in contempt for ignoring Judge Paul Malloy’s order to deactivate up to 200,000 names from state voters registration lists. 

The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILL), representing Belgium resident David Opitz and two other Wisconsin residents, filed a motion to hold the Elections Commission in contempt for not following through on Malloy’s order last month to strike the names from the voters lists.

A hearing is set for 11 a.m. on Monday, Jan. 13.

WILL is asking that, if found in contempt, each commission member be fined $2,000 for each day they are in contempt.

Last week the state Elections Commission in Madison deadlocked on whether to comply with Malloy’s order to purge the state voter lists of up to 200,000 names with the commission’s three Republican members voting to remove the names while its three Democratic Party members voted to wait for the outcome of appeals.

“Court orders are not optional. It is astonishing to observe the Wisconsin Elections Commission act as if they are,” WILL President Rick Esenberg said in a press release. “Despite the wishes of some, Judge Malloy’s order has not been stayed and must be enforced.”

Malloy ruled on Dec. 13 that the commission failed to follow its “plain legal duty” as set out by the Legislature when it failed to inform more than 200,000 people, so-called “movers,” who appeared to have moved to a new address that they had 30 days to notify the state they had not moved or face being purged from voter lists.

The initial lawsuit occurred after the Elections Commission sent letters to more than 230,000 voters who it believed may have moved because they provided new addresses to the Department of Motor Vehicles, the U.S. Postal Service or other agency. 

The commission asked those people to update their voter registrations or confirm they were still at the same address and gave them until spring 2021 to do so.

Under state law, however, the commission should have given them only 30 days to rectify the matter, WILL argued.

Malloy agreed and told the commission to purge the lists.

Those removed can re-register online, by visiting their local municipal clerk or at the polls on election day.

Since Malloy’s ruling, the number of people at risk of being removed appears to have shrunk to less than 150,000, according to news reports.

Malloy’s ruling drew an appeal from the Elections Commission and a federal lawsuit from the Wisconsin League of Women Voters.

WILL has asked the state Supreme Court to take the case, which would circumvent the state appeal. The high court has not announced whether it will take the case, although Justice Daniel Kelly, who is up for election and faces a Feb. 18 primary, has said he will recuse himself from the case. Kelly was appointed in 2016 by Gov. Scott Walker.

The case has garnered widespread attention as Wisconsin again promises to be a key battleground state in the coming 2020 presidential election.



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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

125 E. Main St.
Port Washington, WI 53074
(262) 284-3494


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