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No voters targeted for purge voted in Wisconsin in 2020

February 3, 2021 GMT

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The number of voters initially identified as possibly having moved in Wisconsin shrunk by two-thirds before the November presidential election, and none of the people still on the list cast ballots in 2020, the state Elections Commission reported Wednesday.

More than 232,000 voters were initially identified in 2019 as potentially having moved. The Wisconsin Elections Commission wanted to wait until after the presidential election before removing anyone because of inaccuracies found while previously attempting to identify voters who may have moved.

Republicans had pushed for the state to deactivate voter registrations for everyone on the list who did not respond within 30 days to a postcard notifying them they had been flagged as potentially moving.

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The conservative Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty sued to force the state to deactivate the voter registration for all of them. The lawsuit made its way to the Wisconsin Supreme Court, which heard arguments in September but has yet to issue a ruling. At the time of the arguments, about 130,000 people were on the list.

The Wisconsin lawsuit was one of several across the country, many in battleground states, that sought to purge voters from registration rolls before the presidential election.

The elections commission reported at its Wednesday meeting that the number of people still on the movers list had shrunk to 71,578. None of them voted in 2020, the commission said in a memo.

Nearly 17,000 people on the list had not moved and registered at their same address, more than 7% of the total, the commission report showed.

“That is a huge error rate,” said Democratic commissioner Mark Thompson.

Thompson said the fact that so many voters had not moved proved that the list is “completely unreliable” and should not be used as a basis to deactivate anyone’s voter registration.

Republican commissioner Bob Spindell said it was “amazing” that the list was 93% accurate, and said cleaning up the voter rolls by removing people whose addresses are no longer current will increase voter confidence in elections.

Commissioner Dean Knudson, a Republican, said that the point in removing the voters who may have moved is to ensure the polls are as accurate as possible, not that “we had people voting in the election who shouldn’t be voting.”

The majority of people on the original list, 58%, registered at a new address. Nearly 4% were inactivated by local clerks for a variety of reasons, including because they had died or moved. That left nearly 31% of the people originally identified as potential movers still on the list.

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Former President Donald Trump, after his narrow loss to Joe Biden in Wisconsin, had incorrectly referred to people on the list as “illegal voters.” Biden beat Trump by less than 21,000 votes.

Elections Commission Chair Ann Jacobs, a Democrat, bemoaned the fact that some had wrongly said that the 232,000 people initially identified on the list were “illegal voters.”

“It is a lie. It is not true,” she said. “Wisconsin does not have 200,000 illegal voters on the rolls. It is a complete and total fabrication.”

The commission planned to discuss at a future meeting how to handle the next mailing to voters identified as potentially having moved. Plans are to send the mailing several times a year rather than every 18 months, to flag voters closer to when they may have moved, said elections commission director Meagan Wolfe.