Rathke: Voter Purges Coming in Wisconsin and Georgia

New Orleans       A Georgia judge allowed a 300,000 voter purge to happen hours ago in that state.  A lawsuit filed by Fair Vote Action seeking to prevent the purge will happen later this week on the constitutional argument that voters should be maintained on the rolls.  The judge allowed the purge to go forward after he was assured by the Georgia Secretary of State that any voters purged in error would be quickly and easily reinstated.

In Wisconsin at the end of last week a judge in an amazing hearing agreed with a conservative law firm that a purge of some 234,000 should be allowed despite the unanimous vote of the bipartisan Wisconsin Election Commission that wanted to hold off any purges until 2021, after the 2020 election season has passed.  They cited unreliable data and errors in the past from the ERIC or Electronic Registration Information Center that some twenty-nine states use to verify and check their rolls.  In previous purges in Wisconsin a disproportionate number of voters had been purged incorrectly in Madison and Milwaukee, not surprisingly Democratic strongholds.  Incredibly, the letter sent out to voters to allow them to confirm their addresses and voter status actually told them they confirm their registration if they “vote in the next election,” even though they were at the same time notifying them that they would take away their right to do so.  The judge was oblivious to these arguments and talking to people in Wisconsin, the hearing was so prejudicial that they knew within the first few minutes how he would rule.

I worry that these purges are going to become routine now.  Few will wait until October or November 2020 to pull the trigger.  The Voter Purge Project, created by the American Voter Project, ACORN International, and the Labor Neighbor Research & Training Center might be able to help in Georgia.  We have been monitoring their list in recent months so our database may be able to catch some errors and restore voters in the same way that we were able to stop 40,000 from being purged in Ohio.  Wisconsin is a harder problem, because the barriers to obtaining the lists are so high:  $12,500 for each request!

The problem of voter protection in the face of such concerted efforts at voter suppression is a difficult one.  WILL, the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, that brought the purge suit is a good example of what the Voter Purge Project and others are up against.  It was founded in 2011 with a $500,000 grant from the hard-right Bradley Foundation which has subsequently thrown in another almost $5 million to beef up its program and staff.  Meanwhile, we’re fighting to protect voters with nickels, dimes, and volunteers against teams of attorneys and multi-million-dollar foundations and donors.

Regardless, right is right, and wrong is wrong.  We’re in it to win it, and the odds aren’t terrible if we can stick to the truth hidden behind all of these numbers.

Wade Rathke is founder and chief organizer of ACORN and ACORN International. You can find Wade’s recent past posts here Chief Organizer Reports. And you can link to his website here Chief Organizer ACORN/ACORN International

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