Months after the state resolved a long-running dispute over its voter list, Wisconsin’s Elections Commission is poised to send out a routine mailer that could remove tens of thousands of inactive voters from its rolls.
The mailer — which is a postcard sent out every two years — will be delivered to more than 187,000 people who haven’t voted since November of 2016, a four-year span that covers more than a dozen elections.
In a state like Wisconsin, where the past two presidential races have been decided by around 20,000 votes out of more than 3 million cast, changes to the voting list can make national news.
That’s not the case with this latest mailer, which — at least so far — is flying under the radar.
“Generally, people who get this are people who have moved or just aren’t interested in voting anymore,” said Wisconsin Elections Commission spokesperson Reid Magney. “But we occasionally do get several thousand people out of this who will let us know, ‘Oh, yeah, I’m still here … So keep me on the list.'”
The list in question is different than the one that sparked a year-and-a-half legal fight that was resolved in April by the Wisconsin Supreme Court.
That case involved a list of voters flagged as having potentially moved by a multi-state database of government records, known as the Electronic Registration Information Center. By the time the case was resolved in April, it still included about 69,000 names.
In that case, the court ruled that it was the duty of local election officials — not the state — to remove names from the voter list if they’ve moved.
Inactive voters are different. Under state law, Magney said the Elections Commission is required to send these postcards to voters based on one criterion alone.
“All this does is it looks at the voter records and our statewide voter registration system and says, ‘OK, who is registered to vote, who has not voted in any election since November of 2016?” Magney said. “Either (you) voted or you didn’t. And if you didn’t vote, then you’re going to get one of these postcards and people should be looking for them sometime in June.”
While the two lists are separate, there will be some crossover. According to the commission, about 38,000 of the voters on the movers list are also on the inactive voters list.
The state is scheduled to send the postcards on June 15. People who receive the postcards who want to remain registered should return them to the state.
“And if they don’t respond, then they are moved from the active to the inactive list, which means that they would have to reregister if they wanted to vote,” Magney said.
Clerks will have until July 15 to update their voter lists based on who responds. The Elections Commission will then remove those voters from the state’s registration list on July 31.
The last time the state sent out postcards to inactive voters in 2019, nearly 16,000 people returned the postcards indicating that they wanted to remain registered.