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Wisconisn Governor Scott Walker gestures as he addresses the second session of the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida, August 28, 2012 REUTERS/Mike Segar (UNITED STATES  - Tags: POLITICS ELECTIONS)
Now I'm gonna get ya.
Back in 1971, Wisconsin became the first state in the nation to institute election-day voter registration. Now, as part of the war on what Bill O'Reilly would call untraditional voters, Gov. Scott Walker and the state legislature's post-election Republican majority again seek to ax it. It's a reprise of what was attempted in 2011. Then Wisconsin GOP state chairman Reince Priebus, now the GOP national chairman, said at the time this change “would help keep our elections clean and honest” and make it possible to have an election day ”that’s not a complete zoo.”

The implication that the 40 years of election-day registration in Wisconsin had produced dirty elections was utterly bogus. Just like Walker's latest comments on the matter:

"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," Walker said in the speech. "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."
The Democratic Party and Wisconsin League of Women Voters have blasted Walker over the proposed change, just as they did in 2011. Andrea Kaminski of the LWV says this "looks like another effort to fix a problem that doesn't exist and to do it in a way that makes it harder for people to vote. And the league really opposes that."

There is an easy fix in terms of how volunteer poll workers operate. Indeed, most of the eight states that have already implemented election-day registration deal with the problem Walker cites quite simply. As a 2008 report by Maryland's legislative Office of Policy Analysis stated:

In most EDR states, there are separately staffed tables in the polling place for people registering  to vote and registered voters checking in to cast ballots. This is intended to ensure that new registrations do not delay voting.
Wisconsin, in fact, is one of the states that does this.

Analysis shows that after dealing with the hiccups that inevitably occur when a state first adopts election-day registration the problems go away.

States with election-day registration have significantly higher turnout, some five–seven points—"with a decreased dependence on provisional ballots and without any reported increase in voter fraud." Scott Keyes reports:

In 2008, Wisconsin enjoyed the second highest turnout of any state in the nation (72.4 percent of eligible voters cast a ballot), due largely to the fact the Badger State law allows residents who aren’t registered or have recently moved to register at the polls. That year, approximately 460,000 people used Election Day Registration, 15 percent of all Wisconsinites who cast a ballot.
In 2008, the top six turnout states based on the percentage of eligible voters were, according to a study at George Mason University: Minnesota (77.7 percent), Wisconsin (72.1 percent), New Hampshire (71.1 percent), Maine (70.9 percent), Colorado (70.2 percent) and Iowa (69.7 percent). All but Colorado had election-day registration.

As Craig Gilbert wrote in 2011, when the legislature was then trying to get rid of Election Day registration, it reduces the workload on clerks at the branches of the department of motor vehicles. Because Wisconsin has same-day registration, it is exempt from federal "motor-voter" registration requirements. Election-day registration also gets rid of the need for provisional ballots. The long-time head of the state election system, Kevin Kennedy, said in 2011 that eliminating election-day registration would cause the number of provisional ballots to "skyrocket” in Wisconsin, with tens of thousands of them having to be vetted before they could be counted, causing delays and boosting election costs.

The "problem" Walker wants to solve isn't tie-ups at the polls because large numbers of people register the same day they vote. It's not the increased turnout he doesn't like. It's the kind of people that he thinks election-day registration encourages to show up at the polls: minorities and low-income people who are more likely to vote Democratic than Republican.  

But while Walker is no doubt upset that Democrat Tammy Baldwin is now senator-elect and that Barack Obama got a majority of Wisconsin's votes on Nov. 6, election-day registration did not keep Wisconsin Republicans from restoring their majority in the state senate nor from obtaining a 21-seat majority in the lower house. That lends a bit of vindictiveness to Walker's quest to get rid of a four-decade-old procedure that, at worst, needs a few tweaks.


Originally posted to Meteor Blades on Tue Nov 20, 2012 at 11:45 AM PST.

Also republished by Badger State Progressive and Daily Kos.

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