same day voter registration wsj editorial

A man registers to vote at a Racine polling place Nov. 6 during the presidential election. Wisconsin's long tradition of making it easy to vote should continue.

Here's another big reason why Wisconsin should stick with same-same voter registration:

The state Government Accountability Board just estimated that failing to allow voters to register on Election Day would cost $5.2 million right away, and an additional $1.9 million every two years after that.

The extra taxpayer expense would stem largely from requirements the state would be subjected to under the federal Motor Voter law. Wisconsin has long been exempt from that Clinton-era law because our state allows Election Day registration.

If Wisconsin repealed this convenience for voters, the GAB would have to spend more to maintain voter lists, upgrade its computer systems, inform the public about the change, and train staff. And even after all of that, poll workers would still have to allow the public to register address changes on Election Day.

The Republicans who run the state Capitol floated repeal of same-day registration two years ago while seeking to require voters to show photo identification cards at the polls. Repeal of Election Day registration was dropped from the GOP bill because of wide opposition. (The photo ID requirement was signed into law but is tied up in court.)

Responding to a question last month during an appearance in California, Gov. Scott Walker unfortunately brought the same-day registration debate back to life. He said it causes problems for municipal clerks, and Wisconsin would be "much better" without it.

More recently, the governor has stressed the measure is not a priority. And on Tuesday, state Rep. Joel Kleefisch, R-Oconomowoc, said the cost of ending Election Day registration has given him "pause" about pursuing a bill.

That's good to hear. And we hope that's the last we hear of efforts to change this long and strong tradition.

Wisconsin has allowed same-day registration since 1976, and it contributes to higher voter participation every Election Day.

In fact, Walker accompanied his college-age son to a Wauwatosa polling place to register and vote the same day as the GOP Senate primary in August.

Wisconsin shouldn't have to fight this issue all over again.

Capital W: Plug in to Wisconsin politics

Subscribe to our Politics email!

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.