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Milwaukee has the highest number of voters — more than 35,000 — at risk of deactivation if a lawsuit in Wisconsin is successful.

Wisconsin voter purge isn't fast enough, conservative suit says

A conservative group has sued in an effort to accelerate and even intensify a culling of Wisconsin's voter lists before the next election.

The typical narrative about proposed voter purges is that civil rights and progressive groups go to court to slow them down or stop them altogether. This week, the right-leaning Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty did the reverse — filing a lawsuit in state court arguing the state Elections Commission broke the law when it decided to wait until 2021 before deactivating as many as 234,000 voters who appear to have moved or left the state.

The outcome of the litigation could influence what's shaping up to be another close presidential contest in one of the nation's new battlegrounds. President Trump carried Wisconsin by just 23,000 votes in 2016 and is counting on its 10 electoral votes next year, too, but the Democrats are intent on winning the state for what would be the eighth time in nine elections.


The elections panel, with three members from each party, says it has the authority to delay the deactivation of voters beyond what one state law says is a 30-day deadline, because another law allows the commission to create rules for maintaining registration lists.

Two years ago, the commission sent more than 341,000 letters to voters it had identified as having maybe moved — and 98 percent were dropped from the rolls when their letters were not answered or could not be delivered. The panel said it received a flood of calls from people who were then mistakenly turned away from voting in the 2018 midterm election primaries.

The imbroglio prompted the commission to change the way it maintains the state's roster of 3.3 million registered voters — including extending the response time for movers to as long as two years.

Under this new rule, people suspected of moving could still vote in the April primaries and next November's election. The lawsuit says they should be purged immediately and required to register all over again.

Democrats are concerned this would force more of their voters than Republicans' to re-register. While Wisconsin does not track registration by party affiliation, four of the five municipalities with the highest number of movers — Milwaukee, Madison, Eau Claire and La Crosse — backed Hillary Clinton in 2016.

But the plaintiffs say requiring people to register anew is not an onerous burden as the state allows people to register and cast ballots on Election Day.

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The House on Friday passed legislation to restore a provision of the Voting Rights Act struck down by the Supreme Court in 2013. The bill would require advance approval of voting changes in states with a history of discrimination. Here President Lyndon Johnson shares one of the pens he used to sign the Voting Rights Act of 1965 with civil rights leader the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Passage of historic voting rights law takes a partisan turn

In a partisan vote on an issue that once was bipartisan, House Democrats pushed through legislation Friday that would restore a key portion of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

The Voting Rights Advancement Act passed the House 228-187, with all Democrats voting for the bill and all but one Republican, Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, voting against it.

The bill faces virtually no chance of being considered in the Republican-controlled Senate.

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Big Picture

TV stations fight FCC over political ad disclosure

Broadcasters are pushing back against the Federal Communications Commission after the agency made clear it wants broader public disclosure regarding TV political ads.

With the 2020 election less than a year away and political TV ads running more frequently, the FCC issued a lengthy order to clear up any ambiguities licensees of TV stations had regarding their responsibility to record information about ad content and sponsorship. In response, a dozen broadcasting stations sent a petition to the agency, asking it to consider a more narrow interpretation of the law.

This dispute over disclosure rules for TV ads comes at a time when digital ads are subject to little regulation. Efforts to apply the same rules for TV, radio and print advertising across the internet have been stymied by Congress's partisanship and the Federal Election Commission being effectively out of commission.

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1952 Eisenhower Answers America

On TV, political ads are regulated – but online, anything goes

Lightman is a professor of digital media and marketing at Carnegie Mellon University.

With the 2020 election less than a year away, Facebook is under fire from presidential candidates, lawmakers, civil rights groups and even its own employees to provide more transparency on political ads and potentially stop running them altogether.

Meanwhile, Twitter has announced that it will not allow any political ads on its platform.

Modern-day online ads use sophisticated tools to promote political agendas with a high degree of specificity.

I have closely studied how information propagates through social channels and its impact on political messaging and advertising.

Looking back at the history of mass media and political ads in the national narrative, I think it's important to focus on how TV advertising, which is monitored by the Federal Communications Commission, differs fundamentally with the world of social media.

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