Scott Walker knows no bottom politically, and once again he's messing with Wisconsin's election process in an effort to make it easier for guys like him to win election. Walker says he'd like to get rid of same-day voter registration in the state. He says that would help beleaguered election officers who are absolutely swamped with too much work -- a lie, but hey, that's our governor.
It wasn't enough for Walker and his Republican Party colleagues to pass an onerous Voter ID law (currently under appeal) in an alleged attempt to curb virtually non-existent voter fraud. Of course that really was a vote-suppression scheme to curb the votes of people who tend to oppose Walker and his take-no-survivors ideology. Ending same-day voter registration is really about Walker taking vote-suppression one notch higher.
Walker's idea, reported in today's newspapers (see URL below) was quickly backed by state Rep. Robin Vos, Assembly speaker in waiting. If anybody believes their stated motive in easing the work burden on election workers, I've got a bridge across the Mississippi for sale. Walker, quoted in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
"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 at the library, responding to a question from an audience member about election safeguards. "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."
In truth, there is no problem with same-day registration in this state, just as there is no voter fraud problem in this state. I am a former election worker who actually used to do same-day registrations, and more recently I have served as an independent election observer who has monitored registration and other procedures at polling places. I have never seen any registration-based "burden" on election day poll workers. In big elections like Nov. 6, poll workers surely are very busy, but it's not because too many people are coming to the registration desks and asking to be signed up to vote. That process almost always has gone quite smoothly, even though some prospective registrants are on occasion turned away for lack of sufficient identification.
But if you believe Walker's claim that the registration process has become more unwieldy, note that this is because Walker and GOP legislature made it that way by previously limiting voter registration in other ways.
Never forget that Walker fundamentally was responsible for scaling back advance registration (along with early voting) across the state. The state used to employ roving voter-registration staffers to certify residents for voting in a program that assisted local election clerks. That program is gone. So where there are, as a result, more people coming in to register on election day, that's in part because Walker and company used "shock doctrine" political tactics to create more chaos.
Walker is now trying to profit from that chaos by calling for even more voter restrictions. That's fundamentally unconstitutional in Wisconsin, which is why Vos yaps about amending the state constitution. It's like blaming voters for being forced on occasion to stand in long lines on election day, when the real villains are anti-democratic politicians like Walker and Florida Gov. Rick Scott who have worked to limit voting opportunities and voter rights.
But what else would you expect from Walker? His idea of good government: If it ain't broke, break it, then point to the mess and pretend to be interested in cleaning it up, but then use that his own meddling as an excuse to create an even bigger mess.
Fact is, Wisconsin is a beacon of democracy when it comes to voting. On Nov. 6, the City of Milwaukee recorded voter turnout of 87 percent, way above the national average. And 17 percent of those who showed up to vote registered on election day, without apparent trouble. Of course that won't satisfy wingnut conspiracy theorists or political cynics like Walker who know that same-day registration often benefits lower income and minority people unlike to vote for the likes of Walker.
Bottom line: If Walker really perceives that poll workers are beseiged on election day with too many prospective voters, then the real solution is to re-expand the advance voter registration opportunities that he earlier curbed.
P.S. What's up with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel headline writers? In its story on this matter, the paper reports Walker wants to "end" same-day registration, but the headline says he is merely calling "for changes" to the process. Changes? And then some!