That cost is not the money required to modernize the state’s voter registration system. In fact, by reducing the costs associated with producing and processing paper registration applications, online registration is proven to result in significant cost-savings. Instead, it is traditionally underrepresented voters who will pay the price for this bill. The most harmful provision buried in the bill effectively stops groups from organizing community voter registration drives.
Lawmakers justified the provision by claiming that online voter registration would make community registration drives unnecessary because anyone will be able to promote voter registration by directing people to online registration. However, the online system will require a driver’s license or state-issued identification card number. Local and national groups, including Project Vote, joined together to show lawmakers that the proposed online registration system would not be available to all eligible electors, disproportionately impacting students, veterans, older individuals, low-income people and people of color. We explained that it is community registration drives that often register the very people unable to use online registration.
Presented with this information, lawmakers refused to amend the law to preserve community registration drives or to expand access to the online registration system. We then asked Governor Walker to veto this provision, as no other state has tied online voter registration to the dismantling of community registration drives. But this request was swiftly ignored.
While not surprised, I am disappointed that Wisconsin lawmakers have again erected needless barriers to political participation by deliberately making dishonest claims.