The head of a state government watchdog group says there are serious concerns about a bill up for a vote in the Wisconsin state Senate today that would make multiple changes to Wisconsin’s voter registration laws.
The legislation is receiving some praise for allowing residents to register to vote online. However, Jay Heck with Common Cause in Wisconsin says the option comes at a steep price – the elimination of special deputy registrars, who are authorized to sign-up people to vote in libraries, at political rallies, or even door to door. “As much as we like online voter registration, as much as it would be great to have in Wisconsin, it’s simply not worth the cost of having them do away with the ability to conduct voter registration drives,” he says.
The sponsors of the bill argue there are concerns about fraud within the registrar process, although Heck maintains there are no clear-cut cases to back up that claim. “It’s a ridiculous assertion,” he argues. “In the 40 years that special deputy registrars have been allowed to conduct voter registration, there has been a handful of incidents where there were mistakes made, but none that ever proved to be deliberately fraudulent.”
While the addition of online registration could still make it easier for many people to register to vote, Heck notes that not everyone has easy access to the internet. For the elderly and the poor, he believes registering to vote ahead of an election will be much more difficult if the bill becomes law.