In recent years, Republicans across the country and in Wisconsin have made clear their distaste for laws that make voting easier. So it was not particularly surprising that Gov. Scott Walker, who last session led efforts to reduce the early-voting period, to impose a voter ID requirement as well as to tighten requirements for “proof of residence,” recently announced a plan to eliminate Election Day registration. But there are several reasons why Walker will likely have more trouble getting such a bill through the Legislature than he might have had last session.
Wisconsin’s 1,400 municipal clerks will likely be against the change. While the governor claimed changing the law would “make it easier for our clerks,” to handle registration, rather than volunteer poll workers, a top official with the Wisconsin Municipal Clerks Association forcefully pushed back.
“It will make it more burdensome,” says Sun Prairie City Clerk Dianne Hermann-Brown, a former clerks association president who currently heads the group’s election communication committee. “It would be a logistical nightmare.”
Keep in mind, the association has not opposed all of Walker’s voting proposals. In fact, Hermann-Brown was fiercely criticized by progressives in her recent bid for Dane County Clerk because of her support for eliminating in-person absentee voting during the three days prior to Election Day.
But doing away with same-day registration would force Wisconsin to submit to a number of federal mandates aimed at increasing ballot accessibility, she says.
In particular, the state would have to begin offering voter registration through the Division of Motor Vehicles, a requirement that Hermann-Brown says would lead to inexperienced state officials handling voting rights.