Senate Passes, Walker Signs Bill to Crush Voter Registration Drives

March 16, 2016

Vote ban.

A bill that would make it harder for many citizens to register and vote by effectively ending voter registration drives was signed into law this morning by Republican Gov. Scott Walker.  The governor signed the measure less than 24 hours after it was given final approval by the GOP-controlled Senate.

The measure, Senate Bill 295, allows some voters to register on line up to the third Wednesday before the election and allow Veteran Health ID Cards to be valid for voting, but forbids the use of special registration deputies. These are people who have assisted municipal clerks in registering voters out in the community for more than four decades.

The new law also prohibits municipal clerks from conducting voter registration drives. This year, the clerks in Madison and Milwaukee have been conducting these registration drives in public libraries all over their cities.

The law also requires that an absentee ballot be delivered to the polling place by 8 p.m. on Election Day in order to be counted. Previously, an absentee ballot had to be received by the county clerk no later than 4 p.m. on the Friday after the election in order to be counted.

Matt Rothschild, executive director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, said the change suppresses voter turnout by prohibiting the valuable work of civic groups, like the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin, and many local officials who have worked to turn out the vote for decades.

SB295 was sponsored by Sen. Devin LeMahieu, of Oostburg, and Rep. Kathy Bernier, of Chippewa Falls.

During Bernier’s 2014 reelection, she benefited from nearly $152,000 in outside spending by special interest groups, led by Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC), which doled out an estimated $115,000 to support her.

During LeMahieu’s 2014 election, he received about $1,800 in outside support from conservative political and ideological groups, including the National Rifle Association, Wisconsin Right to Life and Wisconsin Family Action. Labor-backed groups unsuccessfully spent about $73,000 against him.