Same-day registration states
• Eight states plus the District of Columbia presently offer same-day registration, allowing any qualified resident of the state to go to the polls on election day, register that day and then vote. The states are Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, Wisconsina and Wyoming.
• Another two states — California and Connecticut — have enacted same-day registration but have not yet implemented it.
• Two others — North Carolina and Ohio — allow voters to register and cast a vote during the early voting period.
• In most other states, voters must register by a deadline prior to Election Day. The deadline varies by state, with 30 days before the election being a common date.
Source: National Conference of State Legislatures
Appleton City Clerk Char Peterson, who oversaw the registering of 4,505 voters on Election Day, has a message about the state’s law that allows residents to show up, sign up and vote on the same day:
The more the merrier.
“I thought we were supposed to make it easier for people to vote and not more difficult. This could be a deterrent,” said Peterson, who opposes ending same-day registration in Wisconsin — an idea Gov. Scott Walker advocated recently in a speech to a conservative group in California.
“I’m also looking out for the best interest of the city, cost-wise,” Peterson said. “The most cost-effective model is same-day registration — we couldn’t afford to do it another way.”
Others in Peterson’s field agree.
They say eliminating same-day registration would cost more money and create more work for government employees.
In his speech at the Ronald Reagan Foundation, Walker said poll workers are overworked as a result of people registering to vote on Election Day.
“States across the country that have same-day registration have real problems,” Walker said. “Volunteers ... work 13-hour days, it’s difficult to handle the volume of folks who come in at the last minute. It would be much better if registration was done in advance of Election Day, easier for our clerks to handle that.”
Eleven states allow same-day voter registration in some form, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Diane Hermann-Brown, co-chairwoman of the the Wisconsin Municipal Clerks Association election communications committee, said same-day registration has been allowed for 36 years in Wisconsin, and eliminating the provision would shift the burden of registration from poll workers to employees of other state agencies.
“Voters have to verify proof of residence,” said Hermann-Brown, city clerk for Sun Prairie, north of Madison. “What more do you need to eliminate voter fraud than actual proof? (Eliminating) Election Day registration is something that is going to put more burden on the municipalities.”
Election Day registration also limits the number of provisional ballots cast, which clerks must have counted the Friday following an election, which can be a large burden, Hermann-Brown said. Provisional ballots are marked by voters on Election Day but not counted until the voter provides adequate documentation required to cast a ballot.
The residents who registered on Election Day in Appleton — which amounted to about 12 percent of the 38,000 people who voted — had either moved, changed their name or were new voters.
Cullen Werwie, the governor’s spokesman, said Walker does not intend to push the change, but would support a bill that came to his desk eliminating same-day voter registration because of concerns expressed by poll workers and clerks.
But Hermann-Brown said the governor did not have a discussion with poll workers and clerks about the issue.
About 10 percent of the Wisconsin electorate registers to vote on Election Day, including voters who change their name, address or both, according to the Government Accountability Board.
Same-day voter registration is generally attributed as a reason for Wisconsin’s high voter turnout.
Statewide, an estimated 70 percent of voting-age residents in Wisconsin cast a ballot in the Nov. 6 election.
The Government Accountability Board is studying the fiscal and administrative impacts of eliminating Election Day registration and will present a preliminary report in mid-December, spokesman Reid Magney said. The board did not receive reports of unusual activity on Nov. 6, and lines at polling places cannot be attributed to Election Day registration, he said.
Like efforts to require identification at the polls, Walker’s suggestion is widely seen as a partisan move to suppress turnout, which historically has favored Republican candidates.
“There is a solution,” said Michael Kraft, a political science professor at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. “If the governor says poll workers are burdened, find areas with high levels of same-day registration and hire more poll workers.
“The governor really needs to make a stronger case than he’s made, that there is something wrong that needs to be fixed,” Kraft said. “This strikes people as more of the same voter ID nonsense and smacks of political opportunism.”
— Maria Amante writes for the Green Bay Press-Gazette. Post-Crescent staff writer Nick Penzenstadler contributed to this report.