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MADISON, WI – On Tuesday, the Wisconsin Legislature passed a new bill that would virtually end voter registration drives and roll back municipal efforts to increase voter turnout. The election law bill, known as SB 295, also includes provisions that would open online voter registration and allow veterans with Health Identification Cards to register to vote, although advocates say this deal is not worth the cost.
“In 2016 we should be working to make sure all eligible voters are counted, whether they’re a Democrat, Republican or independent. We need to ensure that those who find it a challenge to vote can participate in our democracy,” said Emma Boorboor, Election Reform Campaign Director with U.S. PIRG “While this bill opens some doors, it closes too many others. If Governor Scott Walker cares about the participation of all Wisconsin voters he should not sign this bill into law."
SB 295 would eliminate special registration deputies (SRDs) who often work to register individuals with disabilities and the young to vote. Without SRDs, voters and clerks will be forced to collect paper copies of proof of residence, slowing the registration process and making it more expensive. As a result, most if not all groups who conduct third party registration drives will effectively be forced to stop, violating these organizations’ First Amendment right to help citizens register to vote. The bill would also abolish registration locations such as libraries and would prevent municipal clerks from conducting voter registration drives.
This February, new voter ID requirements took effect in the first Wisconsin statewide election since they were signed into law by Governor Scott Walker five years ago. The election, held on February 16, reported extremely low voter turnout, and some students had trouble casting their ballots because student IDs are not accepted as identification at the polls.
Over 20 state and national groups have signed a letter asking Governor Walker to veto SB 295.
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U.S. PIRG, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, is a consumer group that stands up to powerful interests whenever they threaten our health and safety, our financial security, or our right to fully participate in our democratic society.
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