UW-Madison Political Scientists: Election Day Registration Works in Wisconsin

University of Wisconsin-Madison political science professors Barry Burden, David Canon, Ken Mayer and Donald Moynihan offered their view on election-day registration in the December 27 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Governor Scott Walker mentioned eliminating same-day voting in a speech at the Reagan Library in California last month, but has backed away from the proposal more recently citing costs.

Burden and his colleagues write that election-day voting has been in place in Wisconsin for more than a generation and “has been a great success and over the past generation has effectively been woven into the state’s political DNA.”

Advantages to election-day registration:

  • Increased voting rates
  • Ability to immediately resolve disagreements about a voter’s registration, rendering provisional ballots unnecessary
  • No need to implement costly federal “motor-voter” requirements
  • Helpful for students and others who have recently moved or changed their name
  • Already used by large numbers of Wisconsinites — 14 percent of voters in 2008 registered at the polls

The political scientists conclude by writing that the “net effect would be to replace a part of our electoral process that is popular and works well with one that makes voting more difficult without providing additional security. Surely the Legislature has more important problems to tackle.”