Update on Electronic Voter Registration Bill

SB 295, the Voter Registration Bill:
What we know and what actions we might take

Update 3/15/16: The Senate passed the amended version of the bill. It is slated to be signed by the governor on 3/16/16. In advance of this, the GAB advised all clerks of its expected passage and directed them to allow unexpired and unexpiring VA ID cards to be used to as voter photo ID to obtain absentee ballots. To learn more about other provisions of the bill that take effect immediately, see http://www.gab.wi.gov/node/3892.

Andrea Kaminiski, Executive Director of LWV of Wisconsin, provided the following information to statewide league leaders on 2/18/16:

The Assembly passed SB 295, the voter registration bill, earlier this week with a minor amendment. It has to go back to the Senate, which surely will pass it, and then it goes to Governor Walker, who surely will sign it. Thank you to all of the League members who called their legislators and urged them to either amend the bill to maintain the Special Registration Deputy program, or to defeat the bill entirely. Your calls were not unnoticed. A number of Senators, in opposition to the bill, mentioned on the floor that they had received many calls from League members who want to continue League’s highly successful voter registration drives.

Please note that there are some good things in SB 295:  online voter registration; addition of unexpired veteran’s cards as voter photo ID; having the state join ERIC (Electronic Information Registration Center, established by Pew Charitable Trust), an interstate data exchange that can track voters who move from one state to another; and an end to the requirement that you have to be deputized by the clerk of the person you want to register.

Unfortunately the legislation will also make it harder for many people to register to vote, and it will eliminate the SRD program. Only people who are in the DMV database will be eligible to be registered through the online system. As you know, that leaves out a disproportionate number of our state's seniors, students, minorities and poor. For people who don’t have a Wisconsin driver’s license or state ID (and therefore aren’t in the DMV database), there will be more onerous requirements for documentary proof of residence—even more difficult than those added by the 2014 law, which it appears already cut the Whitewater and Dane County Leagues' ability to register voters at some events nearly in half, according to their reports in 2014.

Timeline: SB 295 could potentially be signed into law by the end of the month. If that happens some provisions will go into effect immediately, but the Special Registration Deputies program will not be eliminated until after the online registration system is up and running. That has to happen by Spring of 2017, but it would not be surprising to learn that they have the online system ready to go.

What we can still do after it is enacted: Even when the SRD program is eliminated, Leagues will still go to schools, colleges, senior centers, etc, and provide voter ID information and register some people online. 

Download or view a copy of the statement from Wisconsin Voices members explaining their opposition, on both policy and legal grounds, to the provision in SB295 eliminating Special Registration Deputies.

Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/kimsandiego/8168063548