Thousands of Milwaukee residents no longer registered to vote after switch to electronic system

Posted at 5:33 PM, Mar 21, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-21 21:48:09-04

Thousands of Milwaukee residents are no longer registered to vote, but it's not their fault. The city said the blame lies with a glitch in the state's new registration system.

City leaders said 44,000 residents in Milwaukee got a postcard in the mail telling them they need to re-register because of this issue. 30,000 have yet to respond.

For those planning to vote in the upcoming spring election, a simple error could halt Milwaukeeans from casting a ballot. It doesn't bother Pat Gibson.

"It is a large number but it's just not a big deal," she said.

But the snafu could have negative repercussions for college students like Benjamin Pettee.

"That could definitely impact the election results so I think that's a big shame," he said.

The problem stems from Wisconsin's recent enrollment in the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC), a system used by 23 states so voters can't cast ballots in multiple states.

ERIC collects data from voter registrations and matches them with information from the Wisconsin Department of Motor Vehicles and the U.S. Post Office. Milwaukee Election Commission Executive Director Neil Albrecht said thousands were deactivated when they didn't perfectly align.

"The DMV did what was described by the state as providing overzealous data meaning they also included if a person had a vehicle registered at another address which people who own multiple homes in the state often do," Albrecht said.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett doesn't think there is any foul play involved, but worries impoverished communities may suffer as a consequence.

"To me, the impact of that really matters more than the intention," Pettee said.

The Milwaukee Election Commission is asking the state to reverse these voter deactivations until the end of the year. Early voting is already underway for the spring election. You can register and vote at City Hall or wait until April 3 and do so at your polling place.