Gov. Walker Signs Voter Registration Bill That Comes at a High Cost

By Marissa Liebling March 21, 2016

Photo- Gage Skidmore via Creative Commons
As expected, last week Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker signed an election bill into law. Significantly, the bill provides for online voter registration. But it comes at a high cost.

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.

5 Responses to “Gov. Walker Signs Voter Registration Bill That Comes at a High Cost”

  1. Paul Malischke says:

    There are two more harmful provisions that will result in more rejected absentee ballots. One provision will force rejection of absentee ballots if the witness’ address is missing. No valid reason was given for this change.
    Another provision concerns the due date for absentee ballots. Currently, ballots are counted as long as they are postmarked by Election Day and arrive by the Friday after the election. This is particularly important for special elections or spring elections, where there is a short period between the primary election and the final election. Under the new law, absentee ballots will be rejected if the arrive after Election Day. More voters will be disenfranchised due to postal delays.

  2. Paul Malischke says:

    In the second last sentence of my previous comment, “the” should be “they”.

  3. Save Us Jeebus says:

    Looks like Wisconsin wants to be the next Kansas. Walker and the Republicans are falling all over themselves trying to ruin the state. Sad.

  4. Jerry D. says:

    In your email about the latest bill impacting voter registration it states “bill effectively stops groups from organizing community voter registration drives.”
    Question; how can this be enforced, are the police going to round up groups for offering ways for people to register to vote?

    1. Paul Malischke says:

      In answer to Jerry D.:
      Currently Special Registration Deputies (SRD’s) are able to verify and document proof of residence. SRD’s are trained and appointed by the municipal clerks, and those who want to conduct a registration drive typically become an SRD. The bill ends that position when online registration is launched.
      Then if you want to do a door-to-door registration drive, you will need to carry a xerox machine with you, so you can make a copy of the voters proof of residence and then mail it to the clerk.

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