County supervisors voted 22-1 in support of same-day voter registration.
Recommended by the county’s Legislative and Judicial Committee, the resolution was introduced at the Feb. 18 Waupaca County Board meeting.
“It is a self-evident truth that more, rather than less voter participation is intrinsically desirable in a democracy and that a healthy democracy requires a high level of participation,” according to the resolution’s opening words.
Wisconsin is one of eight states with Election Day registration. The practice dates back to 1976 in Wisconsin.
The county’s resolution is, in large part, a response to Republican state officials who have proposed ending same-day voter registration.
In November 2012, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported on a speech by Gov. Scott Walker at the Ronald Reagan Library in Los Angeles.
“States across the country that have same-day registration have real problems because the vast majority of their states have poll workers who are wonderful volunteers, who work 13-hour days and who in most cases are retirees,” Walker said. “It’s difficult for them to handle the volume of people who come at the last minute. It’d be much better if registration was done in advance of election day. It’d be easier for our clerks to handle that. All that needs to be done.”
Assembly Republicans began seeking sponsors to introduce a bill to eliminate election day registration.
The Wisconsin Municipal Clerks Association, the people Walker said would benefit from changing the law, subsequently passed a resolution against eliminating same-day registration.
In December 2012, Walker told a reporter with the Wisconsin Center for investigative Journalism he would veto any bill which sought to eliminate same-day voter registration.
County Supervisor Fred Zaug of New London cast the lone vote against Waupaca County’s resolution against eliminating same-day registration.
Zaug said he has concerns about voter fraud in larger metropolitan areas.
“I think it’s pretty hard to vote twice in a small town like Manawa or Weyauwega, but it’s possible to do it in a big city,” Zaug said. “I’m looking at the overall political picture.”
Zaug described voter registration as a simple process and a responsibility every voter should take seriously.
“My opinion is that voters should register ahead of time if they change their address,” Zaug said.
County Clerk Mary Robbins said she believes same-day registration is a benefit to voters and to municipal clerks.
“We have a lot of town clerks who only work part time,” Robbins said, noting a citizen may not be able to visit the town hall while the clerk is there.
She described how some citizens could arrive at the polling place on election day, discover they were not registered and be unable to vote.
“That would be an injustice,” Robbins said.
Waupaca County’s resolution notes municipal clerks “find that same-day voter registration contributes to a more efficient voter registration system, and election inspectors do not find same-day registration to be burdensome.”
Wisconsin has a long tradition of favoring voter participation, and the state’s voter turnout ranked third in the nation in the last six general elections, the county resolution states.
A report released Feb. 18 by the state Government Accountability Board found eliminating same-day registration would result in an additional $14.5 million in additional costs to run elections statewide.
Under federal law, Wisconsin would be required to provide voter registration at the offices of the Department of Motor Vehicles and at agencies which provide public assistance or assist people with disabilities. These agencies would be required to train staff to process voter registration.
If election day registration is eliminated, “the processes for maintaining current and accurate poll lists also would become more complex and costly,” according to the report.