In a speech he gave in California this weekend, Gov. Scott Walker hinted he might support removing Wisconsin’s same-day registration for elections.
Walker laid out multiple ideas and policies Wisconsinites may see him push during the next legislative session in an hour-long speech Friday at the Ronald Reagan Library and Museum. Among those ideas was taking out a law that allows voters to register at the polls on Election Day.
The states with same-day registration, Walker said, often see “real problems” because of the amount of people who go to the polls to register instead of doing it prior to the elections.
He noted most of the people working at the polls are volunteers who already work hard enough to have to deal with same-day registration.
“It’s difficult for [the poll workers] to handle the kind of volume of folks who come at the last minute,” Walker said. “It’d be much easier if registration was done in advance of Election Day. It’d be easier for our clerks to handle all that.”
Walker spokesperson Cullen Werwie told the Associated Press that Walker would look at the bill that comes before him before supporting and signing it.
United Council of University of Wisconsin Students, an advocacy group for students across the UW System, would fight such a proposal, according to the group’s Government Relations Director Analiese Eicher.
Eicher said same-day registration is particularly important for students because they move frequently, often to another dorm or apartment. As voters have to register with their updated address, she said students’ frequent moving might lead to a decrease in student turnout.
“We do a lot of really great work with registering folks before Election Day, but same-day registration is, I think, incredibly important to accessing a right to vote and accessing a democratic process,” Eicher said. “A lot of states have recently looked at expanding voter rights, and I would really hope that the governor and the newly-elected Legislature not consider changes to the voter registration process.”
During the passage of the voter ID law, some Republican legislators considered removing same-day registration, but the proposal never succeeded. A number of Republicans were uncomfortable with removing same-day registration because it would lead to possible conflict with federal regulations.
Because Wisconsin has same-day registration, the state does not need to register voters when they obtain driver’s licenses in accordance with federal law. Taking away same-day registration would lead to the federal government requiring the “motor-voter” process and opening up that possibility for voters, according to the Associated Press.
Sen. Glenn Grothman, R-West Bend, is among the legislators opposed to the “motor-voter” process because of further federal requirements.
“Same-day registration is problematic and something we will look into, [but] you would subject yourself to more federal regulations and that’s the problem,” Grothman said.
The incoming Assembly Speaker, Robin Vos, R-Rochester, has previously proposed removing same-day registration and supports the “motor-voter” system. He told the Associated Press that he would consider the idea if it comes up and that he and Walker have not yet talked about it.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.