Citizens unite to defend same day voter registration
Barrett, government and community leaders, speak out against Walker’s agenda to eliminate same day registration
In response to Governor Walker’s recent plans to again attack voting rights, members of the African-American Civic Engagement Roundtable, joined by Mayor Tom Barrett, Neil Albrecht (Executive Director of the city of Milwaukee’s Election Commission), State Representative Sandy Pasch, State Representative Jon Richards, and other community partners held a press conference on Wednesday morning to speak out against public comments made by Walker that support the elimination of same day registration in Wisconsin.
“Increasing the efficiency of elections and ensuring access to voting should be a priority for Wisconsin’s legislators.
Eliminating same day registration would reduce Wisconsin’s exceptional voter turnout and present unnecessary obstacles to voting, particularly for students. I applaud the efforts of Milwaukee’s African American Civic Engagement Table and other groups that are stepping forward in protest of this restrictive and needless change to elections,” said Mayor Barrett.
“I urge Governor Walker and the legislature to stop attacking democracy. Wisconsin has historically had a very high voter turnout as opposed to many other states. Same day registration is one of the main reasons for our high turnout. It needs to be protected. Our elected officials should be working to expand the electorate, not suppress it,” said Mike Wilder, Director of the African-American Civic Engagement Roundtable, and a member of the staff of CItizen Action of Wisconsin.
In the November 6th general election, Wisconsin’s turnout rate of eligible voters was 70.14 percent. According to the Government Accountability Board (GAB), this was the fourth highest since records have been kept.
The City of Milwaukee reported an 87 percent turnout among registered voters. Over 56,000 voters in the city of Milwaukee registered on the same day they voted. This represents nearly 19 percent, or 1 in 5, of total voters in the city.
“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.
“The dust has barely settled from the election – nonetheless, Assembly leadership is forging ahead full throttle with an anti-democracy agenda that encourages extreme partisanship, suppresses voter turnout, and attacks Wisconsin values,” said Representative Sandy Pasch.
“Their top priority seems to be gaining and keeping political control through extreme power-grabs – not helping Wisconsin’s communities and families.”
“Governor Walker’s plan to end same day registration is a solution in search of a problem,” said Anita Johnson, a community organizer with Citizen Action of Wisconsin. “For 150 years Americans have fought to expand access to the ballot box and the ability to participate in our democracy. We join numerous elected officials and Election Commissioner Albrecht in asking that poll workers, chief inspectors, election commissioners, and county clerks across Wisconsin stand up and speak publicly about important role same day voter registration plays in Wisconsin’s democratic process.”
“I have won and lost elections. Of course the wine is sweeter when you win, but in my defeats, I have never suggested that because of a defeat the rules need to change. That is exactly what Gov. Walker and his Republican allies believe. They are upset that President Obama has been re-elected to a second term, and they now want to change the rules.” Mayor Barrett stated.
One of the groups that helped to lead the fight against the Voter ID law that Gov. Walker handed down was The League of Women Voters, and that fight lead to the injunction by two judges against that law. LuAnn Bird, vice-president of the league spoke at Wednesday’s press conference as well.
“Last year alone the League had observers at the polling places all over Wisconsin in all four elections. In the presidential election we had around 300 trained volunteer observers. We would be the first to call for changes if we were seeing any problems with Election Day registration because we work to ensure integrity in the voting process. Our governor is proposing legislation for a problem that does not exist. Our observers consistently comment on the dedication and professionalism of our poll workers who bend over backwards to ensure that all qualified citizens vote and have their ballot counted.” Bird stated.
State Rep. Jon Richards whose district has UW-Milwaukee in it stressed that college students are one of the key groups that will be greatly affected by ending same day voter registration. One of the university’s residence halls, Sandburg Hall is not only a polling site, but it also houses some 3,000. students. The entire UW system has more than 180,000 students statewide.
He stated, ““There is nothing more sacred in a democracy than the right to vote and our government ought to be working to protect and expand rights, not take them away. Unfortunately the right to vote has become the fight to vote today in Wisconsin.”
He also stated, “All the more galling is that the drive to take away voter rights is built on innuendo and outright falsehoods. There is no reason, other than an insatiable quest for partisan political advantage, to justify repealing a state law that has literally made it possible for millions of legal Wisconsin voters to do their civic duty and make their voices heard at the ballot box.”
After extensive investigation, fewer than two-dozen instances of improper voting have been charged in Wisconsin since 2005, in which time nearly 14 million votes were cast. In addition the head of the state municipal clerk’s association has publicly endorsed continuing to allow same day voter registration.
One Wisconsin Now has also called on Republican Speaker-elect Robin Vos, Joint Finance Committee co-chair Alberta Darling and Assistant Senate Republican Leader Glenn Grothman to provide specific evidence to prove their recent public claims alleging voting impropriety in Wisconsin. To date, none of the three have provided such evidence.
Ross concluded, “The effort to eliminate same day voter registration is built on lies and intended to serve a partisan political agenda, not the people of Wisconsin. It is the politicians behind this nefarious scheme that are committing the real electoral fraud in Wisconsin today.”