MADISON, Wis. — In their continuing quest to give themselves an unfair, partisan advantage in elections Republican-controlled Assembly and Senate committees are holding a public hearing on a trio of bills that would gut campaign finance laws, cripple ethics and election law enforcement and even make it more difficult for senior citizens and students to register to vote. Since seizing power in 2010, Gov. Walker and GOP majorities in the Senate and Assembly have imposed numerous impediments making it harder and more complicated to vote including a voter ID law, elimination of weekend voting and reduced hours for early voting and gerrymandered legislative districts.
“Making it easier for corporations to pour money directly into elections and crippling ethics and election regulators is bad enough,” commented One Wisconsin Institute Program and Development Director Analiese Eicher. “But Republicans are taking it even further by eliminating the in-person special registration deputies that have been essential parts of efforts to make sure everyone in Wisconsin that want to participate in elections is registered and able to do so.”
Assembly Bill 389 and Senate Bill 295 would take a positive step forward and allow Wisconsinites with a valid state driver’s license to register to vote or update their registration online. But the bills would also create a new impediment to registering voters by eliminating special registration deputies prior to election day.
Special registration deputies are required by law to be trained by municipal clerks and must follow strict guidelines for ensuring voters meet the residency requirements. Many universities partner with local clerks to provide trainings to students, professors, and volunteers to become special registration deputies, who then register voters all across campus during special events, in dorms, and various locations on campuses.
These deputies also play a vital role for ensuring senior citizens in nursing homes and assisted living facilities are registered to vote. Enacting online voting in replace of special registration deputies will make it harder for these Wisconsin residents to become registered and vote.
Among the other proposals forwarded by the GOP are the elimination of Wisconsin’s more than century old prohibition on direct corporate contributions in elections and the “Wisconsin Idea” statement of the purpose of campaign finance laws. In addition to allowing unlimited contributions to political parties directly from corporations, language stating the purpose of campaign finance laws are designed to help provide for an informed electorate and protect the integrity of elections would be stricken from state statute.
Eicher concluded, “Republicans have a long and shameful record of making it harder and more complicated to vote in Wisconsin. Now, under the guise of online voter registration there will be new hurdles for students and senior citizens to participate in elections.”