Wisconsin Democrats are jumping on comments made by Republican Gov. Scott Walker that the election process would be "much better" if voters didn't register at the polls on Election Day, something that has been allowed in the state since the 1970s.
Speaking at a Reagan Foundation event Friday at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library near Los Angeles, Walker initially answered an audience member's question about the need to protect the vote by reiterating his support of the state's Voter ID law.
Then he brought up the state law that allows voters to register on Election Day:
"States across the country that have same-day registration have real problems because the vast majority of the states have poll workers who are wonderful volunteers who work 13-hour days and in most cases are retirees. It's difficult for them to handle the volume of folks who come in at the last minute (to vote).
"It would be much better if registration was done in advance of Election Day. It would be easier for our clerks to handle that. All that needs to be done."
Wisconsin is one of just nine states that allows voters to register on Election Day and was the third in the nation to do so in the 1970s, according to the nonpartisan group Project Vote.
Part of a dangerous agenda?
Although Walker did not directly call for the law to be overturned, Democrats saw his comments as an indication that the governor would push for an eliminating of same-day registration.
"Campaigning at the Ronald Reagan Foundation in California instead of communicating with Wisconsinites, Scott Walker rolled out the next phase of his dangerous legislative agenda, advocating the elimination of Wisconsin's same-day voter registration laws," said state Democratic Party Chairman Mike Tate in a statement Monday.
“As evidenced by robust levels of voter turnout and participation, Wisconsinites take our civic duty seriously, and same-day voter registration has played a part in ensuring that every eligible elector is able to cast their ballot," he added. "Yet, despite our state’s history of expanding voting rights and running clean and open elections, Scott Walker and his Republican Party have attempted to erect unnecessary road blocks that impede voter access – especially for students, seniors and minorities – at every turn."
Tate's comments were echoed by Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett in an interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
"Clearly, the governor is upset with the election results and believes the outcome here in Wisconsin would have been different if there was no same-day registration," Barrett told the newspaper. "Their goal is to suppress votes of people who don't vote for Republicans."
Vos backs dropping same-day registration
Among those who support eliminating same-day registration is state Rep. Robin Vos, the incoming speaker of the Assembly who represents portions of Racine County.
Kit Beyer, a spokeswoman for Vos, told Patch Monday that the Republican leader had no reaction to the governor's comments, but does back the elimination of same-day registration and has supported such legislation in the past.
"However, there's no legislation that at this point that we know of being drafted for next session" on this issue, Beyer said.