It’s Far From Over: Scott Walker Resumes the Republican War on Voting Rights

Did you think voter suppression would end on Election Day? Think again. The corporate-backed Republican-led war on our voting rights is still chugging.

None other than Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker announced on Monday that he would like to end the state’s same-day registration law:

Wisconsin is one of nine states that allow voters to register at their polling place on the day of the election, and that’s often credited with helping make Wisconsin’s voting rate one of the highest in the country. Since the Nov. 6 election, both Walker and incoming Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) have said they’re considering ending the practice, which goes back to 1976 in the state.

And what reason would Gov. Walker, who also pushed through a voter suppression ID law in 2010, have for ending the successful practice of same-day registration?

“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.”

So. Gov. Walker is saying that because he feels bad for the overworked poll workers many of whom are retirees, no one should be able to register to vote at the polls.

Excuse us for our disbelief that Gov. Walker supports this policy because he’s interested in helping workers. No state executive in the country, or even in recent memory, has been more committed to attacking workers’ rights and collective bargaining, not to mention the wages, benefits, and pensions of public employees.

Here’s the real reason Walker is seeking to end the 36-year practice: it helps people vote. Wisconsin has the third-highest turnout rate in the country: in part because of the state’s strong civic tradition, but also because same-day registration helps transient Wisconsinites (like students, young people, minorities, and low-income workers) exercise their rights. Two weeks ago, 48,000 voters took advantage of same-day registration in Milwaukee, helping boost turnout in that city to 87 percent.

If the 2012 election proved anything, pro-worker candidates succeed when more people turn out to vote. Walker knows this, so he has a consistent standard operating procedure when it comes to voting rights: restrict at all costs. Act 23, Walker’s voter ID law that was found unconstitutional in April, would have cost the state’s DMV an extra $6 million, despite his frequent protestations that the state is “broke.”

We have a better idea. Senators Mark Warner (D-VA) and Chris Coons (D-DE) have introduced the FAST Voting Act in the Senate, which would provide states resources to address election reform. In the House, Rep. George Miller (D-CA) has introduced the SIMPLE Voting Act, which would require all states to institute 15 days of early voting, and ensure that each precinct sufficient poll workers.

Those policies would benefit the overworked poll workers Walker is pretending to care about. But his true agenda is and has always been restricting voting rights. He also doesn’t have a history of listening to ideas that are not his.

Photo by keegstra on Flickr, via Creative Commons.

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