FILE - Polling place election ballot box

The Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC) voted Monday to request that the state legislature offer clarity on a dispute being fought in court over validating voter addresses.

The issue concerns state law over maintaining voter rolls by verifying addresses of registered voters after they have moved.

The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) sued WEC on behalf of three registered voters, Timothy Zignego, David Opitz and Frederick Luehrs, III, arguing WEC is not following state law governing the maintenance of voter rolls.

According to state law, WEC must verify the validity of registered voters' addresses after they have moved. To maintain accurate voter registration data, Wisconsin participates with 28 other states in the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC). ERIC flags “movers,” individuals who report an official government transaction from an address different than the address tied to their voter registration, to the appropriate state election agencies.

Ensuring that voters are voting from the proper residence is critical, WILL argues, because the state “has an obvious interest in only counting the ballots of eligible voters.”

WEC has taken a position that the ERIC data does not qualify as “reliable information.” This is specific wording stipulated in state law that requires the agency to take action on registered voters who have moved and need to verify their addresses. WILL’s lawsuit suggests that the ERIC data is “reliable information” and WEC cannot simply ignore it and not follow the law.

“The Wisconsin Election Commission is free to ask the legislature to change the law,” Rick Esenberg, WILL President and General Counsel, told The Center Square. “But until the law is changed, the Commission must follow it.”

The preliminary hearing for the lawsuit is scheduled for Dec. 13 in Ozaukee County Court before Judge Paul Malloy.

Malloy is expected to hear WILL’s request for an immediate injunction, which would require WEC to implement the law immediately.

The judge will also hear arguments over whether the League of Women Voters will be allowed to intervene in the case.

Malloy could decide on both issues at the hearing or make no immediate decision and issue a ruling at a later date.