Immediately after Walker made public his desire to scrap Election Day Registration, which has been in place in the Badger State since the 1970s, he ran into unexpected opposition from the election clerks he claimed would benefit. “There’s no way we’d be in favor of that,” said Diane Hermann-Brown, communications chairwoman of the Wisconsin Municipal Clerks Association, noting that eliminating Election Day Registration would make their jobs more difficult.
Citizens have also begun to organize and rally against Walker’s plan to suppress the vote, including a large rally in Milwaukee this week featuring election officials, lawmakers, and other community figures. Neil Abrecht, executive director of the City of Milwaukee Election Commission, summed up what is so troubling about the proposal in his speech:
“Same day registration has been occurring in the State of Wisconsin for the last 36 years. The practice of administering this process is tightly woven into our election worker training and our Election Day procedures. A change to this practice would have tremendous ramifications to voters, particularly students, renters, and people in poverty; and would create confusion, frustration, and a disillusionment with the democratic process at our voting sites. There are numerous other opportunities to improve election systems and increase the efficiency of voting sites. I would hope that anyone interested in changing this state’s election laws would look at those opportunities before implementing a change that would reduce voter access to the ballot and actually create, not alleviate, a burden to election workers,” said Neil Albrecht, who is the executive director of the City of Milwaukee Election Commission.
Nearly 1 in 5 Milwaukee voters registered on Election Day this year. Statewide, hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites were only able to vote because of Election Day Registration, leading to an astronomical 70.1 percent turnout rate. This was the fourth highest level in state history, according to the Government Accountability Board.
Wisconsin Republicans are exploring other avenues to make voting more difficult as well. Incoming Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R) wants to eliminate the Government Accountability Board, which has been lauded as a “model for nonpartisan election administration,” and replace it with political appointees. In addition, House Speaker-elect Robin Vos (R) has professed his desire to alter the constitution to allow voter suppression after a state judge ruled that the state’s voter ID law was an unconstitutional violation of the right to vote.
A progressive group, One Wisconsin Now, has gathered 15,000 signatures from voters demanding Walker back down on his push to end Election Day Registration.