For 36 years, Wisconsin has had Election Day voter registration.
The 1976 legislation establishing it states, "... pursuant to the policy of this state and nation to ensure all people the right to vote, the Legislature finds it imperative to expand voter registration procedures."
In March 2011 the nonpartisan Wisconsin Government Accountability Board unanimously re-affirmed the value of Election Day registration based not only on voter convenience, but also on savings to state and local governments and in consideration of the extra burden on municipal clerks and poll workers, should it be eliminated.
Because of Election Day registration, Wisconsin is exempt from the 1993 National Voter Registration Act. The GAB determined Wisconsin has saved millions because of this exemption.
Dealing with provisional ballots is a complex and time-consuming task. Without Election Day registration, Wisconsin would have to issue tens of thousands of provisional ballots to voters who otherwise would have been able to register.
The GAB report pointed out that all registrants must show proof of residence, and that the list of identifying documents is almost identical to the type of identification set out in the federal Help America Vote Act.
In a 2011 study, Barry Burden, a UW-Madison political science professor, wrote: "In study after study using a variety of different methodologies, scholars have come to the same basic conclusion: (Election Day registration) lowers the cost of voting for many Americans and increases overall turnout."
This is the bottom line for those who believe our state and nation are stronger when more people participate.
— Paul Malischke, Madison, Fair Elections Wisconsin