Governor Evers’ executive budget includes a necessary provision that would automatically register Wisconsin drivers to vote.
This provision is long overdue for Wisconsin, and automatic voter registration is one of many voting provisions in the governor’s budget that would make voting more accessible for Wisconsinites.
This system automatically adds people who interact with government agencies — in this case, the Department of Motor Vehicles — to the voter rolls. When citizens submit their information to apply for government services, it is securely transmitted to election officials, who verify their eligibility.
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Over 20 states have expanded access to voting since the 2022 midterm elections. Some of these states have enacted automatic voter registration similar to Evers’ budget provision. This streamlines the process of voting and shows citizens the government cares about their participation in democracy.
According to research from the Brennan Center for Justice, automatic voter registration successfully increases voter participation. This research shows that, across states which have enacted automatic registration, the subsequent percentage increase in registrants ranges from 9% to 94%.
As primary elections approach — and with a presidential campaign season looming — enacting Evers’ nearly $3 million elections spending plan is critical for both Wisconsin and the country. Electoral legislation should focus on either making voting more accessible to those eligible or making the vote-counting process more efficient and secure. Evers’ plan does both.
This provision would be a leap in progress from where Wisconsin currently lies with election processes and voting laws.
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Automatic voter registration would benefit Wisconsinites, specifically college students. Registering to vote is tedious and comes with unnecessary hurdles for these students, who often change addresses on an annual basis.
Evers’ proposal also specifically seeks to help college students. One of the provisions in his budget would require the UW System and the Wisconsin Technical College System to issue IDs to students that can be used to vote.
Many out-of-state college students vote in Wisconsin and will never have a Wisconsin driver’s license. Requirements such as showing a Wisconsin-issued photo ID puts an undue burden on out-of-state college students, as well as others who may struggle to obtain a government-issued photo ID for a multitude of socioeconomic reasons.
“The right to vote is fundamental to our democracy, and we should be making it easier — not harder — for every eligible voter to cast their ballot without interference from politicians,” Evers said in a statement.
The best way to ensure every Wisconsinite is able to exercise their fundamental right to vote is by reforms like Evers’ automatic voter registration provision.
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Wisconsin plays a key role in determining which way the electoral college swings in presidential elections. This makes it all the more important that every Wisconsinite is able to voice their opinion on Election Day.
Automatic voter registration leads to more active participation in democracy — something we should all be striving for. The State Legislature must approve Evers’ budget proposal and contribute to the momentum across the country to expand access to the ballot.
Leah Terry ([email protected]) is a senior majoring in political science and communication arts and pursuing a certificate in public policy.