‘The problem exists:’ Milwaukee officials say thousands of voters mistakenly removed from rolls

MILWAUKEE -- The people in charge of elections here said Wednesday thousands of people may have wrongly had their voter registration deactivated. Mayor Tom Barrett and officials with the Milwaukee Election Commission said good intentions by the state may have led to a big mistake.

"Potentially, thousands of voter registrations have been deactivated," said Barrett.

Mayor Tom Barrett

Barrett called on the state to reactivate more than 300,000 voters who were removed from the rolls in January. The national database Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC) indicated those people moved, and those who did not reply to a postcard from the state were deactivated.

Wisconsin is one of 23 states that submit voter information to ERIC, which deactivates the registration of voters whose current address no longer matches the one on their voter registration. ERIC also determines which adults are eligible to vote but have not registered and sends them mailings encouraging them to do so.

The state mailed 343,000 postcards to people ERIC identified as having moved. About 308,000 of those voters were removed from the rolls in January after they failed to respond. The Wisconsin Election Commission confirmed about 44,000 of those voters were Milwaukee residents.

"As much as we don't want people sitting on the voter rolls that no longer live in the city, I think what's even more critical is we can't deactivate people who should have active voter registration records," Albrecht said.

Neil Albrecht

Election Commission Director Neil Albrecht said it's unclear if about 30,000 of them should have been done. The problem surfaced in February. About 100 people in Milwaukee had to reregister even though they never moved.

"We had 100 people in a low-turnout election who had been removed from the poll list," said Barrett.

Reid Magney, a spokesman for the Wisconsin Elections Commission, said in a statement:

"We've been contacted by 12 voters who had to re-register when they should not have. That's out of more than 500,000 ballots cast on February 20. We are analyzing the city's list of 100 voters who had to re-register to determine what happened with them."

The WEC acknowledged after the February election that some voters had been wrongly deactivated. Magney said a supplemental poll book will be available at polling places for the April 3 spring election. Voters who are initially turned away can see if their name is in the supplemental book and, if so, they'd be allowed to vote.

Magney said the WEC has not yet decided whether the supplemental books will be available for the August primary or the general election in November.

The problems are caused by instances like someone having a car registered to a different address than what's on their voter registration, an apartment or condo number in the wrong field, or a college student whose voter registration is for a campus address while their DMV address is for their parents' home.

"We don't think they're trying to cause a problem but the problem exists," said Barrett.

The city sent out their own postcards Wednesday to the people who were removed from the rolls.

CLICK HERE to check your voter registration status -- you can also call 414-286-CITY if you are a Milwaukee resident.