Since its introduction Friday, a bill calling for online voter registration in Wisconsin has received mixed reviews from both Democrats and Republicans.
The Senate Committee on Elections and Local Government considered the Elections Technology, Access and Security Bill at a public hearing Tuesday. Sen. Devin LeMahieu, R-Oostburg, Rep. Kathy Bernier, R-Chippewa Falls and Rep. Terese Berceau, D-Madison, introduced the bill Friday.
The proposed legislation would allow any eligible voter with a Wisconsin driver’s license or state-issued ID to register online through a Government Accountability Board regulated website.
“[The bill] improves the efficiency and security of the electoral process,” Bernier said at the hearing. “This is the modernization of the voting process.”
The purpose of the bill, Bernier explained, is to create a simple and secure environment that is accessible to a mass population and eliminates the chance of voter fraud.
But the bill received pushback from Democrats, many of whom signed for co-sponsorship Friday, but withdrew their support by Tuesday’s hearing.
Dane County Clerk, Scott McDonell, who also retracted his support for the bill, said Democrats see a number of faults in the legislation.
McDonell said reasons for their concern include the elimination of election registration deputies, lack of technology accessibility for senior citizens and low-income individuals and difficulties for college students whose campus addresses may differ from their driver’s licenses.
According to Bernier and LeMahieu, problems with deputies and difficulties with a paper system — including time, illegible handwriting and cost — could be avoided should the bill pass, as all registration would be accessible online.
“Nothing is preventing people from seeking out help to get registered,” LeMahieu said. “There are still resources available.”
Currently, election registration deputies travel across their respective counties to places where there is inhibited access to voter registration, such as college campuses or nursing homes, and help people with the registration process.
Rep. Melissa Sargent, D-Madison, originally co-sponsored the bill after McDonell supported it, but later withdrew her support after further research, saying the bill impedes, not improves, voter registration.
“It is making it harder for senior citizens, young people and people living in poverty to vote,” Sargent said. “That is very concerning.”
But at the hearing, legislators from both sides of the aisle said they were not opposed to online voter registration in general.
McDonell said if lawmakers improve the bill to include electoral registration deputies and accessibility to the new technologies, online voter registration would be an improvement for the state of Wisconsin.
“You have to ask, are you better off now than you were before? Can we help students and senior citizens with the use of special registration deputies and have a product that’s easy to use for everyone?” McDonell said. “If yes, then it’s a huge improvement.”
Still, many legislators are hesitant to approve the bill too soon. During the hearing, many asked for legislators to hold off on passing the bill for a year with the fear of technology glitches occurring during the upcoming election year.
Wisconsin would be the 27th state to adopt such legislation, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
The bill is still circulating for co-sponsorship.