Welcome Back: Milwaukee to Restore 21,000 Voters to Rolls

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The City of Milwaukee will reinstate about 21,000 voters who were removed from the rolls last year after the state elections commission determined that they and others across the state were dropped when a list maintenance mailing went awry. The Journal-Sentinel has more:

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said he planned to reinstate the registrations of about 21,000 people. The Milwaukee Elections Commission will work with the state agency on the issue.

“These are people who never should have been dropped from the rolls in the first place,” Barrett said. 

At issue is an effort the state used to try to identify people who had moved. 

In 2017, officials sent postcards to about 340,000 Wisconsinites who were thought to have possibly moved. The state removed people from the rolls if they did not did not hear back from them.

Election officials have determined many voters got the postcards who shouldn’t have because of faulty data. They are now seeking ways to help people who didn’t move get back on the voter rolls. 

In Milwaukee, about 44,000 were removed from the voter rolls as part of the effort, said Neil Albrecht, executive director of the Milwaukee Election Commission.

The Milwaukee commission believes a little over half of them had moved and should have come off the rolls but that about 21,000 people should not have been removed, Albrecht said. 

On Tuesday, the state commission voted to let local clerks make their own decisions on who to reinstate. Albrecht and the mayor said they would put the 21,000 voters back on the rolls in his community. 

In another attempt to address the situation, some local election officials are printing lists of voters who were taken off the rolls because they did not respond to the postcards from the state. Clerks can check those supplemental lists at the polls if voters say they believe they should still be registered. 

Voters who lose their registration status can re-register online, by mail, at their election clerk’s office or at the polls on election day. Some critics contend that’s not an adequate safeguard because some people won’t know they’ve been culled from the voter rolls until they get to the polls and won’t have proof of residency with them to re-register.

Kudos to state and local officials for spotting and rectifying the error; if Milwaukee’s math holds for the entire state, over 162,000 voters could be affected. [UPDATE: I heard from someone at the state elections commission who reports that Milwaukee’s error rate is higher than the rest of the state. In other words, the math doesn’t hold. – DMCj] It’s the latest story to highlight the importance of voters checking their registrations well in advance of Election Day; it’s very easy to do in most states and it can avoid frustration for everyone involved on Election Day. If you haven’t done so, today is a good day … go check and stay tuned!

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