Wisconsin Governor Proposes Ending Same Day Voter Registration

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INTERACTIONS
Photo: Governor Walker Facebook Page

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker endorsed the Republican legislature’s efforts to end same day voter registration in his home state.  Wisconsin is currently one of nine states in the country to have same day voter registration, a measure which is credited with producing traditionally high voter turnout.

Wisconsin has had same day voter registration since 1976, but Walker stated same day voter registration poses problems to safeguarding elections. He noted that,

“States across the country that have same-day registration have real problems because the vast majority of their states have poll workers who are wonderful volunteers, who work 13-hour days and who in most cases are retirees. It’s difficult for them to handle the volume of people who come at the last minute. It’d be much better if registration was done in advance of election day. It’d be easier for our clerks to handle that. All that needs to be done.”

His statements produced backlash across the state, however, particularly among Democrats. Alderman Ashanti Hamilton was one of many who spoke out strongly against the governor. He claimed that the governor was taking away Wisconsin voters’ fundamental rights, stating that,

“If a man was to threaten someone else with bodily harm or death in this country, that man would be arrested, charged with any number of crimes and likely jailed. But I’ve found myself wondering, in light of recent events, that if the Governor of Wisconsin threatens to take away our residents’ most fundamental rights – rights for which Americans have risked their bodies and even laid down their lives – then should not our Governor also be arrested and jailed?””

In Milwaukee, the outcry was swift as well. Mayor Tom Barrett, who ran twice against Scott Walker (in both the general election and a recall) joined the African-American Civic Engagement Roundtable, Neil Albrecht, the Executive Director of Milwaukee’s Election Commission, Representatives Sandy Pasch, Jon Richards, and other community partners to protest the proposal. He held a press conference asking the governor to stay away from same day registration, arguing it helps protect high voter turnout and needs to remain intact.

Milwaukee reported an astounding 87% turnout the past presidential election, with over 56,000 voters registering the same day, making up almost 19% of total voters in the city.

After an outpouring of criticism, Walker attempted to deflect attention from his original position; he would sign any bill eliminating same day registration. He stated that his priority was not to reform voting registration, but rather to improve the economy of the state and create jobs for constituents.

However, this measure appears to be part of a larger movement to change voting laws in the name of voter protection. In some cases, these measures appear to make it harder for certain populations to vote. Earlier this year, Republicans attempted to require a voter ID for the first time in Wisconsin history, which could potentially bar certain demographics from voting.

The initiative was ultimately struck down by the Dane County Circuit Court, which ruled the law requiring otherwise eligible voters to present a government-issued photo identification before being allowed to cast their ballots was an unconstitutional burden. The Wisconsin Supreme Court refused to hear the case before the November 6 elections, despite the Attorney General’s petitions.

Whether same day voter registration will end in Wisconsin is yet to be seen, but the Republican legislature will have a majority in both state houses after the January inauguration, and barring a Walker veto that appears unlikely, they seem poised to implement the restriction.

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  1. Terri Harel I would be worried that this could deter eligible voters from showing up at the polls. Eligible persons should always be allowed to cast their vote...
  2. Michael Higham I think online voter registration would mitigate a lot of what Gov. Scott Walker says is wrong with same-day registration. Here in CA, we don't have same-day registration, but I re-registered online and it was such a smooth and easy process. I can see why Gov. Walker would want to get rid of same-day, but at this day and age, we're always skeptical of a politicians motivations.
  3. Cassidy Noblejas Bartolomei There seems to be an argument for implementing online registration/voting in this piece....
  4. Simon Mayeski Good point, and if California can do it (http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/california-politics/2012/09/gov-jerry-brown-approves-election-day-voter-registration-bill-.html) then Wisconsin can do it. Gov. Brown signed the same-day registration a few months back, although it will not happen until CA's Vote-Cal's much-delayed database is working well.
  5. Lucas Eaves If that change is enforced, they will have two year to find ways to make people register in advance. Only 9 states have same day registration. If other state manage to do it, Wisconsin can do it to.
  6. Debbie Sharnak It is not that Wisconsin can't function without same day voter registration, people in Wisconsin register in advance all the time. However, it opens up the democratic to more participants, a move that should be encouraged rather than squashed.
  7. Alex Gauthier "Wisconsin has had same day voter registration since 1976, but Walker stated same day voter registration poses problems to safeguarding elections." I find it hard to believe that a practice that's been around for more than 30 years is just now becoming a problem
  8. Debbie Sharnak Agreed...I have yet to hear a legitimate reason why same day voter registration should be discarded. Given the high voter turnout it produces, there is every reason to assume it should continue.
8 comments
Terri Harel
Terri Harel

I would be worried that this could deter eligible voters from showing up at the polls. Eligible persons should always be allowed to cast their vote...

Michael Higham
Michael Higham

I think online voter registration would mitigate a lot of what Gov. Scott Walker says is wrong with same-day registration. Here in CA, we don't have same-day registration, but I re-registered online and it was such a smooth and easy process.

I can see why Gov. Walker would want to get rid of same-day, but at this day and age, we're always skeptical of a politicians motivations.

Lucas Eaves
Lucas Eaves

If that change is enforced, they will have two year to find ways to make people register in advance. Only 9 states have same day registration. If other state manage to do it, Wisconsin can do it to.

Alex Gauthier
Alex Gauthier

"Wisconsin has had same day voter registration since 1976, but Walker stated same day voter registration poses problems to safeguarding elections."

I find it hard to believe that a practice that's been around for more than 30 years is just now becoming a problem

Debbie Sharnak
Debbie Sharnak

It is not that Wisconsin can't function without same day voter registration, people in Wisconsin register in advance all the time. However, it opens up the democratic to more participants, a move that should be encouraged rather than squashed.

Debbie Sharnak
Debbie Sharnak

Agreed...I have yet to hear a legitimate reason why same day voter registration should be discarded. Given the high voter turnout it produces, there is every reason to assume it should continue.