Most states already require voters to think ahead.
AFTER ALL THE nasty brawling — not just in Wisconsin, but across the nation — over whether Voter ID amounts to sensible security at the polls or a barely veiled suppression effort, a partisan battle over scrapping same-day registration in the state seems unavoidable.
Currently, Wisconsin is one of just a handful of states that allow unregistered individuals to come to the polls on election day and take care of the business right then and there. A substantial majority of states require registration well in advance. For example, in Illinois, registration closes about a month before election day.
The tradition in Wisconsin, however, has been far more liberal. Some like that. Some think it’s ripe for fraud, and creates an undue last-minute burden on election officials.
GOV. SCOTT WALKER, who apparently never saw a controversy he didn’t want to embrace, told an audience at the Reagan Library in California he is considering ending same-day registration in Wisconsin.
The governor’s comment sparked immediate outrage back home. Democrats accused Walker of hatching a plan whose true aim is to suppress the votes of minorities, young people and others.
Critics noted that such individuals tend to be less frequent participants in elections and, therefore, doing away with same-day registration might significantly reduce the number of voters, particularly in urban areas. That’s a sensitive point, since it is largely conceded that high turnout in urban areas resulted in President Obama defeating Mitt Romney on Nov. 6.
LET’S DEAL WITH the usual squawking about voter fraud first. There is no credible evidence to suggest a problem. Whether the issue is same-day registration or Voter ID, official investigations — in Wisconsin and across the nation — have turned up hardly any proof of fraud. If indeed instances of fraud were as widespread as the fanatic partisans claim, it wouldn’t be this hard to find.
So throw that concern out.
The idea that it’s burdensome for poll workers is much stronger, though. It is an unnecessary chore on a busy day.
Also, we’ve always believed citizens should prepare themselves to vote, not wander in off the sidewalk at the last minute. Earlier registration, arguably, would encourage citizens to think about the choices they’ll be making.
Our views have been consistent over the years on both Voter ID and registration. It’s not too much to ask citizens to prove they are who they say they are, so long as the state accepts the burden (and cost, for those in need) of making access to picture ID simple and easy.
Same on registration. It’s not too much to expect folks to register before election day. What’s the magic number — 30 days, 7 days, 3 days? We don’t know. But if the governor makes sure registration opportunities are easy and accessible, same-day registration can go.