While speaking in California at the Ronald Reagan Library, a forum where presidential hopefuls often go to speak and test the waters, Gov. Walker gave a broad outline of his agenda for the new Legislative session, and raised the idea of ending same-day voter registration.
Gov. Walker cited a single reason for wanting to do away with same-day voter registration: overburdened poll workers.
“It’d be much better if registration was done in advance of Election Day. It’d be easier for our clerks to handle that. It’s difficult for them to handle the volume of people who come at the last minute,” Gov. Walker said.
The Wisconsin Democratic Party says Gov. Walker is attempting to curb high Democratic voter turnout.
“Merely saying ‘oh, there’s too many people here, we can’t have them vote,’ that’s a pretty backwards argument,” Wisconsin Democratic Party spokesman Graeme Zielinski said.
Zielinski calls Gov. Walker’s idea a roadblock for voters.
“We think high voter turnout is a good thing. We believe when more people vote, it’s good. Republicans want fewer people to vote because there are more Democrats out there,” Zielinski said.
During the presidential campaign, in several appearances in Wisconsin, first lady Michelle Obama reminded voters of same-day registration.
10 states at the District of Columbia allow same-day registration for the presidential election. North Dakota has no registration requirements.
In the 2012 presidential election, Wisconsin had 70% turnout of registered voters. Turnout is typically 10 to 12 points higher in states that allow same-day registration.
Voters in Milwaukee responded to the idea of doing away with same-day voter registration with some skepticism.
“Basically, I think it’s idiotic. It’s just another way for elected officials of different parties to try and stop voters from being able to get out and vote. I think there are some things that need to be changed, but I don’t think taking away voter registration on the day of should be taken away,” Darrin Kieniert said.
There is no bill working its way around the Capitol yet, but Gov. Walker’s spokesman says the governor would have to review a final version of any bill if it were passed by the Legislature.
Newly-elected Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R – Burlington) has supported similar legislation in the past, and of course, Republicans are now back in control of the Senate, so votes appear to be there if Republicans want to do it.