Unjust Voter Purges in Georgia and Wisconsin Will Likely Contribute to the Tipping of the 2020 Election

America masquerades as a democracy. As shown with articles such as the one below, at best, it is a country with some functioning but flawed democratic structures. The idea that rescinding someone’s eligibility to vote based on them not voting in some past elections is an absurd assault on voting rights, but that’s what’s being done by the Republican party in these instances in the swing states of Georgia and Wisconsin.

Republicans are intensifying efforts to aggressively purge the voter rolls in Wisconsin and Georgia before the 2020 elections, potentially giving their party a crucial advantage by shrinking the electorate in two key swing states.

On Friday, a state judge in Wisconsin ruled that the state could begin canceling the registrations of 234,000 voters—7 percent of the electorate—who did not respond to a mailing from election officials. The Wisconsin Elections Commission, a bipartisan group overseeing state elections, had planned to wait until 2021 to remove voters it believes have moved to a new address. But in response to a lawsuit from a conservative group, the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, Judge Paul Malloy, a Republican appointee, said those voters could be purged 30 days after failing to respond to a mailing seeking to confirm their address.

Republicans are intensifying efforts to aggressively purge the voter rolls in Wisconsin and Georgia before the 2020 elections, potentially giving their party a crucial advantage by shrinking the electorate in two key swing states.

On Friday, a state judge in Wisconsin ruled that the state could begin canceling the registrations of 234,000 voters—7 percent of the electorate—who did not respond to a mailing from election officials. The Wisconsin Elections Commission, a bipartisan group overseeing state elections, had planned to wait until 2021 to remove voters it believes have moved to a new address. But in response to a lawsuit from a conservative group, the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, Judge Paul Malloy, a Republican appointee, said those voters could be purged 30 days after failing to respond to a mailing seeking to confirm their address.

On Monday night, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger removed 309,000 voters from the rolls—4 percent of the electorate—whose registrations were labeled inactive, including more than a hundred thousand who were purged because they had not voted in a certain number of previous elections.

These numbers are large enough to swing close elections. Donald Trump carried Wisconsin by 22,000 votes; the number of soon-to-be purged voters is more than 10 times his margin of victory. Democrat Stacey Abrams failed to qualify for a runoff against Brian Kemp in the 2018 governor’s race by 21,000 votes; the number of purged voters in Georgia is 14 times that.

These purges appear to disproportionately affect Democratic-leaning constituencies, including voters of color, students, and low-income people who tend to move more often. In Wisconsin, 55 percent of those on the purge list come from municipalities where Hillary Clinton defeated Trump in 2016. Nine of the 10 areas with the highest concentration of voters slated to be purged voted for Clinton. Milwaukee and Madison, the state’s two most Democratic areas, account for 14 percent of the state’s registered voters but 23 percent of those on the purge list, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

For the past decade, Republican election officials and conservative groups have sought to expand the use of voter purges. They were aided in 2018 by a Supreme Court decision allowing states to remove people who had not voted in two or three previous elections, a move voting rights group said turned the right to vote into a “use it or lose it” privilege.

Both Wisconsin and Georgia have a recent history of inaccurate voter purges based on faulty data. In 2017, Wisconsin sought to remove 340,000 voters who the state government said had filed a change of address with the post office or registered their cars at an address other than the voter registration address. But at least 7 percent of the people on the list had not moved and should not have been on the purge list, according to the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin. Milwaukee removed 44,000 voters but later reinstated nearly half of them, who remained eligible to vote. The state’s new purge list “likely once again contains a substantial amount of unreliable and demonstrably inaccurate information,” according to a legal brief filed by the Wisconsin League of Women Voters. (Because Wisconsin has Election Day registration, purged voters can re-register at the polls, but they need to bring proof of address and a valid ID.)

“If our experience is anything like it was back in 2017-2018, where we lost thousands of voters, we’re afraid that history will repeat itself,” says Neil Albrecht, the executive director of Milwaukee’s Election Commission. “This will lead to people distrusting election administration in Wisconsin. If people feel like a system is rigged, it has a pretty profound impact on whether or not they feel it’s even worthwhile to participate in an election.”

Georgia purged 1.4 million people from 2012 to 2018. That included a purge of more than half a million people in the summer of 2017, the largest in state history. Seventy thousand people purged for having not voted in previous elections re-registered to vote in the 2018 election, and 65 percent of them re-registered in the same county, according to American Public Media, suggesting that they should not have been purged in the first place. Voters living in areas that went for Abrams over Kemp were more likely to be purged.

Earlier this year, the state of Ohio released a list of 235,000 voters slated to be purged. It turned out that 40,000 people shouldn’t have been on it. That included the head of the Ohio League of Women Voters, who had voted in three elections in the past year but nonetheless found herself labeled an inactive voter.

The same sort of problems appear to be resurfacing in the latest round of purging in Wisconsin and Georgia, with eligible voters wrongly targeted for removal.

Gerrymandering Case Reaches the Supreme Court

Gerrymandering is rigging the political process to allow the politicians to pick many of their voters, a reversal of what the actual order should be in a real democracy. The U.S. (and a lot of other countries for that matter) are better described as plutocracies than democracies though.

Wisconsin-gerrymandering

The legal scholars and voting-rights activists who brought the case, now dubbed Gill v. Whitford, have asserted that Wisconsin’s state Assembly and state Senate district maps were rigged by Governor Scott Walker’s hyper-partisan legislative allies to lock in the majorities they gained in the wave election of 2010. Republicans gerrymandered legislative district lines so aggressively that in the next election, even as Wisconsin Democrats won 174,000 more votes than Republicans in races for state Assembly seats, Republicans won a 60-39 majority in the chamber.

The democratic disconnect illustrated by those numbers has strengthened the argument that the gerrymandering of district lines denies voters their right to participate in fair and competitive elections. And jurists have begun to accept that something must be done to make elections more reflective of the popular will. As the lead plaintiff in the Wisconsin case, longtime University of Wisconsin law professor William Whitford, says: “In a democracy citizens are supposed to choose their legislators. In Wisconsin, legislators have chosen their voters.”

Last year, a three-judge federal-court panel declared that the Republican maps were unconstitutional because they violated the Equal Protection Clause and freedom-of-association rights that extend from the First Amendment. For the first time in more than three decades, a federal court had invalidated legislative district lines because of partisan bias. Whitford has described the panel’s decisions in the case as “truly historic,” and said they “could have a monumental impact in ensuring that voters’ voices are heard across the nation, regardless of party.”

[…]

Now the Wisconsin case comes before the US Supreme Court and, despite that court’s conservative bias in recent years on voting-rights matters, Whitford and others are hopeful for its prospects. Why? Because Justice Anthony Kennedy, the key swing vote on the high court, has in the past stated that “If courts refuse to entertain any claims of partisan gerrymandering, the temptation to use partisan favoritism in districting in an unconstitutional manner will grow.” If Kennedy sides with more liberal members of the court, a blow could be struck against gerrymandering—not just in Wisconsin but, via the respect-for-democracy standard that could be set, nationally.