Judge OKs Van Hollen's lawsuit against elections officials

Chris Rizo Sep. 25, 2008, 6:34am

J.B. Van Hollen (R)

MADISON, Wis. (Legal Newsline) - Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen will be allowed to sue state elections officials to force them to verify thousands of voters' identities, a judge has ruled.

Van Hollen, a Republican, is seeking to force the state Government Accountability Board to confirm the identity of thousands of voters before the Nov. 4 election by cross checking information on thousands of voter registrations against information in other state databases.

Democrats claim that the attorney general's lawsuit is a means to suppress the vote.

Van Hollen filed the lawsuit last week against the state's Government Accountability Board over claims the board failed to meet the federal Help America Vote Act of 2002, known as HAVA.

The Government Accountability Board's attorney,Lester Pines, had argued that Van Hollen should be disqualified because state Supreme Court rules say attorneys cannot sue their own clients.

Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi on Wednesday disagreed, saying that the attorney general can sue to force state agencies to adhere to the law.

"Whether or not the attorney general should be using his authority in this way is something to be decided at the ballot box when the attorney general is subject to reelection," Sumi said.

In his lawsuit, Van Hollen said Wisconsin was required to have a system in place that would meet federal elections requirements no later than January 1, 2006. However, the system was not in place until just recently.

The attorney general said had Wisconsin met the HAVA deadline, new voters who registered by mail since January 1, 2006, would have been subject to a so-called "HAVA check" to ensure that the information they provided to election officials matched the information in other public databases.

"The goal of this requirement is to protect the integrity of elections by ensuring that only those who are qualified and properly registered would be permitted to cast ballots," Van Hollen said, announcing his lawsuit.

From Legal Newsline: Reach reporter Chris Rizo at chrisrizo@legalnewsline.com.

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