January 9, 2008

Conservative Dreams of Quelling Turnout

Today hearings are set on two of the latest attempts by conservatives in the state legislature to disenfranchise people that traditionally don’t vote for them.  The first is an attempt to repeal election day voter registration in Wisconsin, the second to establish a voter photo ID requirement.  These are just the latest two attempts by conservatives, in a major election year, to specifically target and disenfranchise certain kinds of voters. 

AB 158 would repeal election day voter registration (EDR) and set a deadline for registration 14 days before the election.  Wisconsin has a long tradition of permitting same day voter registration and that policy has lead us to bring in some of the best voter turn out rates in the nation.  According to DEMOS, which is a non-partisan public policy research and advocacy organization, EDR states have much higher voter turnout than non-EDR states.

Today hearings are set on two of the latest attempts by conservatives in the state legislature to disenfranchise people that traditionally don’t vote for them.  The first is an attempt to repeal election day voter registration in Wisconsin, the second to establish a voter photo ID requirement.  These are just the latest two attempts by conservatives, in a major election year, to specifically target and disenfranchise certain kinds of voters. 

AB 158 would repeal election day voter registration (EDR) and set a deadline for registration 14 days before the election.  Wisconsin has a long tradition of permitting same day voter registration and that policy has lead us to bring in some of the best voter turn out rates in the nation.  According to DEMOS, which is a non-partisan public policy research and advocacy organization, EDR states have much higher voter turnout than non-EDR states.  In 2004 EDR states had an average turnout that was 12 percent higher than non-EDR states. 

Younger voters typically move more often and are more likely to benefit from Election Day Registration.  In their study, Demos estimates that EDR may increase turnout among younger voters by as much as 14 percent.  When younger voters are being pursued across the nation, why would Wisconsin take action to suppress that coveted group of voters?  Similar issue of mobility also affect many lower income voters, why would we want to make voting more difficult for them?  EDR does not only affect these groups because in 2006 one out of six voters in Wisconsin registered at the polling place on election day.  

Furthermore, ending EDR would greatly increase polling place disputes, confusion and the number of provisional ballots.  Not only does this increase the administrative burdens and costs but it more importantly increases the likelihood that otherwise qualified voters could be disenfranchised. 

Conservatives in Wisconsin have also introduced another old standby, requiring a voter ID (AB 549).  Every election year they jump up and down and manufacture fake numbers in trying to convince the media and the public that there is a voter fraud problem in Wisconsin.  One of their very own, U.S. Attorney Biskupic, has investigated many of their accusations and has determined that there is no widespread voter fraud problem in our state.  The United States Election Assistance Commission also reported little evidence of voter fraud at the polls.  Even more recently the Brennan Justice Center undertook and in depth analysis of the many right wing claims of voter fraud across the nation and they also found the claims to be fiction.   

It is pretty clear that conservatives take these actions to try and justify their attempts at disenfranchising certain voters.  These kinds of attempts have nothing to do with protecting the integrity of the vote, in fact they have the very opposite effect.   This is certainly not by accident, it is by devious design and should be once again rejected in Wisconsin.

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