Wisconsin’s top legislator has a new plan to find non-citizens on the voter rolls

Speaking Thursday to a group founded by a leading election denier, a top Wisconsin lawmaker unveiled an ambitious plan to identify non-citizens on voter rolls and remove them weeks before the fall election in a key swing state.

Election experts say the approach described by Rep. Scott Krug (R-Nekoosa) is likely illegal and, if implemented, could result in eligible voters being removed from the rolls. They add that there is no evidence that foreigners voted in significant numbers.

Krug, the Republican chairman of the Assembly Campaign and Elections Committee, said he intends to compare Wisconsin’s statewide voter rolls with a separate list of legal noncitizens with driver’s licenses to identify noncitizens registered to vote, as well as also those who actually voted.

Krug said he will take his study to every city official in the state in September – 333 of them – and is urging them to remove foreigners.

“I think this is probably the most important project we can do in the state of Wisconsin to restore the trust of just making sure our voter rolls are clean,” Krug said. “It shouldn’t be this complicated.”

Krug spoke at a June 13 online meeting organized by the Election Integrity Network, which was founded by former Donald Trump lawyer Cleta Mitchell and works to mobilize grassroots activists across the country to prosecute illegal voting.

Mitchell played a key role in Trump’s failed attempt to overturn the 2020 election results.

“Republicans have happily disenfranchised voters at every opportunity for many years,” said Rep. Lisa Subeck, a Democrat on the Campaign and Elections Committee. “As a result, it will be more difficult, if not impossible, for eligible voters to cast a ballot on Election Day.”

Subeck linked the suppression of non-citizen voting to potential GOP efforts to once again disrupt election results.

“I think heading into the next election, there are certainly legislators who want to have another 2020 in their hands,” she said. “I fear Republicans like Scott Krug and others are laying the groundwork for another January 6th. And that’s terrifying.”

538.com forecast model shows Wisconsin is tied with Arizona and Pennsylvania as the most competitive state in this year’s presidential election. In 2020, President Joe Biden won the state by just under 21,000 votes.

Krug admitted at the meeting that he currently does not have any of the lists needed for the project. But he said the state Office of Legislative Technology Services agreed to share the statewide voter list with his office after the state election agency, the Wisconsin Elections Commission, refused to cooperate. He also said the state Department of Motor Vehicles allegedly provided him with a list of non-citizens with driver’s licenses.

A message left with LTSB was not immediately returned.

Krug was unsure how the crucial and elaborate process of comparing the two lists would be handled.

“We will have to do a data comparison,” he said. “We will need to partner with some people who can do this because I don’t think LTSD will be able to handle this project on its own. That’s why we’re looking for people who can make this comparison.”

Krug said the Division of Motor Vehicles told him that about 70,000 non-citizens in the state have driver’s licenses or state identification cards. He estimated that there could be “almost a thousand” of them on the voter rolls.

“The goal is, by September, to do that comparison and compile a list and give it to every city clerk in the state of Wisconsin,” Krug continued, “and say that exactly how many people actually voted under this procedure who were not supposed to vote and who, technically, in fact, they are still on your electoral roll – please remove them from your electoral roll.”

Krug said the September deadline would give officials a few weeks before early voting begins to contact voters “to request better proof” or “just remove them altogether if they don’t have proof.”

“There will be some officials in the state of Wisconsin who will probably refuse to remove individuals from the voter rolls,” Krug acknowledged.

Election experts say officials would have good reason to refuse. First, there are privacy concerns, according to David Becker, founder and executive director of the Center for Election Innovation and Research and a leading expert in election administration.

“This legislation talks about sharing highly protected, highly sensitive and private personal data from motor vehicle records with unspecified third parties,” Becker said. “The legality of this is highly questionable. But more importantly, I believe that society would have the right to know exactly who will have access to this data and how it will be stored and used.”

Privacy aside, Becker said, the process Krug describes will likely result in a significant number of eligible voters being mistakenly removed from the rolls.

Becker explained that when other states tried to make similar comparisons, they found that many people on the noncitizen driver’s license list were likely to become citizens some time after obtaining a driver’s license.

“This is really aimed at naturalized citizens who, for a variety of reasons, are among the most patriotic and interested in participating in our democracy,” Becker said.

Additionally, Becker said that many people and groups who advertised themselves as experts in performing the kind of list matching required by Krug’s project did not exploit high-quality data matching standards, which led to basic errors such as identifying two different people as the same person because of a common name and surname.

“Things like this happen all the time, and unless you’re an extremely sophisticated data scientist and you’re working with sophisticated software, you can get a lot of false positives,” Becker said. “You will overestimate the number of foreigners. And that is obviously a big problem.”

The Becker Electronic Enrollment Information Center is a well-respected data sharing organization of which the State of Wisconsin is a member. Although several GOP-led states have withdrawn from the pact in recent years, portraying it as a plan to boost Democrats, election officials from both parties say ERIC data has helped them keep their rolls immaculate without removing eligible voters while protecting voter privacy.

A spokesman for the WEC, which organizes state elections, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Krug’s plan.

Krug’s focus on non-citizen voting aligns with that of the national GOP, which recently introduced legislation on the issue.

In announcing the measure, Speaker Mike Johnson said he “intuitively” knew that huge numbers of foreigners vote in federal elections. Truly an exhausting 2017 test conducted by the Brennan Center found just 30 cases of suspicious – unconfirmed – non-citizen votes out of 23.5 million votes cast in the 2016 election, or just 0.0001%.

During his tenure as chairman of the Campaign and Elections Committee, Krug developed a reputation for being relatively conciliatory and bipartisan.

But he described his plan as an attempt to circumvent Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat, who last year vetoed a GOP-backed bill aimed at restricting noncitizens from voting.

“We don’t need the governor’s approval to remove people from the voter rolls if someone can’t be on the voter rolls,” Krug said.

And he explained that he had to act alone, with a strongly biased accent.

“We have a legislature, but we don’t have a governor,” Krug added. “And last year we lost the Supreme Court to a new liberal majority. So I have one power lever that I can pull, out of these three. To get even as far as we can today is a monumental victory.

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