Having hardly been sworn in yet for the new legislative session, state Republican lawmakers wasted no time in setting forth a series of bills aimed at pushing a conservative social agenda. In a year characterized by constituent wishes for jobs and a healthy economy, conservative legislator (and husband to the newly-minted lieutenant governor) Joel Kleefisch set forth a dozen bills for the Assembly to consider.
Not all of the laws proposed are necessarily bad, or even conservative, at least at face value. A law prohibiting a sex offender from being on school property without first notifying the school in question seems quite logical to most. Ending the prohibition on the sale of cars on Sunday won't do much harm either to Wisconsin citizens, aside from those that like to browse lots uninterrupted on weekends.
But it's the assault of democratic rights that have many pondering the true motivations of Republican lawmakers now controlling our state government.
Kleefisch has proposed a bill to end same-day voter registration, a measure that Republicans have pursued in the past. Many Wisconsin citizens take for granted their right to register to vote on the day that they cast their ballot. The rest of the country usually requires you to register one month before any election takes place. Wisconsin, however, allows you to register to vote if you have proof of residency within your voting ward before and up to Election Day.
Kleefisch and other Republicans see same-day registration as a threat to democracy -- or, perhaps more realistically, as a threat to their re-election campaigns. Citing unfounded campaign fraud concerns, the bill would disenfranchise thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, of voters who have relied on this privilege for years. Seniors and those who have a heavy work schedule (aka, the working class) would suffer the most, being unable to register to vote on the day of the election and having the most difficult time out of any other groups to register beforehand.
In other words, in an effort to prevent one or two cases of campaign fraud (which is coincidentally caught every time), Republican lawmakers would like to prevent ten or twenty thousand people from taking part in same-day voter registration.
Wisconsin has long been proud of its voting habits -- we've consistently ranked among the nation's highest states in terms of turnout, and Wisconsin voters are more happy with their voting experiences than in other states. The amount of voter fraud that occurs due to same-day voter registration is minimal, at best. One study on the subject actually concluded that voter fraud is more likely PREVENTED due to same-day registration, as the person in question must present their proof of residency on the spot for poll workers (and partisan poll watchers) to consider.
The prevention of voter fraud is a red herring -- state lawmakers that want to do away with same-day voter registration are exaggerating a small problem in order to disenfranchise a group of people (overworked blue-collar workers) that ordinarily votes Democratic. States that have same-day voter registration have the same number of instances (or less) of voter fraud, and higher turnouts as well. With legislation like this being thrown around, we ought to ask ourselves: What are newly-elected Republicans afraid of...democracy?
Reject the calls to end same-day voter registration. Wisconsin will remain better than other states, democratically, for it.