By Kevin Binversie | Wisconsin Reporter
Speaking on Friday at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Foundation in Simi Valley, Calif., Gov. Scott Walker was asked about a number of recent election-integrity issues in places like Philadelphia and South Florida. Among several possible improvements, Walker suggested eliminating same-day voter registration in Wisconsin.
Not surprisingly, in a news release, the Democratic Party of Wisconsin — which just last year prided itself on getting 1 million signatures to trigger a recall of Walker in just 60 days — called the move to pre-registering “voter suppression” and vowed to fight any legislation that might come up in the next legislative session.
Listening to Democratic legislators such as state Sen. Lena Taylor, D-Milwaukee, and such groups as the League of Women Voters, you’d think the end of same-day registration would be the end of democracy in the Badger State as we know it.
The practice, on the books since 1976, lets new or transient voters register at the polls on Election Day with proof of residency. While known to boost turnout, same-day registration’s convenience also makes the election system more vulnerable. Those running it concede that initial data are incorrect, addresses are out of date, and the belief that any new voter data or corrections to existing data will just be “filled in later.”
Such an open system is a target for abuse or outright fraud, and leaves open the possibility of charges of irregularities later on by an election’s losers. A 2008 Milwaukee Police Department investigation of irregularities tied to the 2004 election recommended elimination of same-day voter registration, saying its “investigation has concluded that the one thing that could eliminate a large percentage of fraud or the appearance of fraudulent voting on any given Election is the elimination of the On-Site or Same Day voter registration system.” They noted the system gives poll workers no way to verify if those voting on Election Day are even eligible to vote in the first place.
Solution: Dump the current system and offer a straight “motor voter” system used by the majority of the country. That would add a level of security to voter-list integrity.
But my heart does go out to the average 10 percent to 15 percent (Recent data from the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board show 10.7 percent of June’s gubernatorial recall voters were same-day registrants) of the voting populace who register to vote on Election Day. That’s a sizable number of college students, renters and other transients who are used to one system and have to handle the shock of moving toward another.
But the idea Wisconsin is somehow special and can’t change because of that shock? Ludicrous.
One would think both state political parties would like the idea of being able to set up registration drives before an election to help in voter-identification efforts. When I lived in Virginia, a third-party group registered me outside a grocery store in time for the 2008 election. It took less than five minutes, and the group came to me. With a state as politically organized as Wisconsin traditionally is, neither party would let thousands of voters sit on the sidelines.
Someone will find them, register them and ensure they are called at least 10 different times to make sure they voted.
Of course, if we had a more technologically advanced election system, the whole idea of even having to register would be moot. It’s time our election system embraces the technology that has allowed banks for decades to identify you from even thousands of miles away — simply by the plastic card in your hand.
Veteran political blogger Kevin Binversie is a Wisconsin native. He served in the George W. Bush administration from 2007-2009, worked at the Heritage Foundation and has worked on numerous state Republican campaigns, most recently as research director for Ron Johnson for Senate. Contact him at [email protected]
— Edited by Therese Umerlik at [email protected]