Wisconsin Supreme Court Takes Up Case That Could End With Purge Of 150K Voters

A couple leaves after casting their ballots during a Democratic presidential primary election at the Kenosha Bible Church gym in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on April 7, 2020. - Americans in Wisconsin began casting ballots Tu... A couple leaves after casting their ballots during a Democratic presidential primary election at the Kenosha Bible Church gym in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on April 7, 2020. - Americans in Wisconsin began casting ballots Tuesday in a controversial presidential primary held despite a state-wide stay-at-home order and concern that the election could expose thousands of voters and poll workers to the coronavirus. Democratic officials had sought to postpone the election but were overruled by the top state court, and the US Supreme Court stepped in to bar an extension of voting by mail that would have allowed more people to cast ballots without going to polling stations. Both courts have conservative majorities. (Photo by KAMIL KRZACZYNSKI / AFP) (Photo by KAMIL KRZACZYNSKI/AFP via Getty Images) MORE LESS
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June 1, 2020 3:16 p.m.

The possibility of a pre-November purge of 150,000 from Wisconsin’s voter rolls is back in play, after the state Supreme Court indicated Monday that it was taking up a lawsuit brought by a conservative group pushing for the removals.

An appeals courts has blocked the purge. The state Supreme Court had previously deadlocked 3-3 on a request to take up the case. The deadlock, however, was due to the recusal of one of the Court’s conservative justices, who was up for election in April. At the time, the conservative justice, Daniel Kelly, said he would sit the case out while it stood to affect voters in his race.

Kelly ultimately lost his election, which took place in April, during the state’s coronavirus outbreak. Kelly lost even after the GOP successfully got courts to block attempts to either delay the election or extend absentee voting in it.

In late April, Kelly announced that he was un-recusing from the voter purge case. That apparently gave the court’s conservative bloc the votes it needed to break the deadlock and take up the case. (One of the court’s four conservative justices had sided with the court’s two liberals.)

The case was brought in 2019 by the conservative group Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, which alleged that the Wisconsin Elections Commission was not moving quickly enough to purge the voters. A county judge sided with the conservative group — and even held the commission in contempt for defying his order to remove the voters while it appealed the case.

An appeals court reversed both moves in February, but only after Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty was unable to get an intervention from the deadlocked state Supreme Court.

Now Wisconsin’s highest court is taking another bite at the apple, a move made possible by Kelly’s un-recusal. Kelly will step down on August 1 to make way for his replacement, Jill Karofsky, who was supported in the election by Democrats. It’s unclear whether that timetable will allow for Kelly to participate in the final decision, given the 60 days usually allotted for briefing, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

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