New legislation that would change voter registration rules gains opposition

By: Megan Peterson Email
By: Megan Peterson Email

New legislation backed by area democrats is causing a stir. On Monday, opponents met outside the Democratic Resource Center in Eau Claire to share their thoughts on bills affecting voting in Wisconsin.

The Wisconsin Federation of Republican Women, WFRW, held the rally. WFRW President Charlotte Rasmussen says the bills will raise costs for taxpayers and make voting less secure.

But the bill's writer, Representative Jeff Smith, says the changes will make it easier to register to vote.

Spring elections are Tuesday, but as always, if you want to vote you have to register.

"In 2004 the Census Bureau reported that 18% of eligible voters were not registered. Two years later in 2006 that number rose to 28%. That means over one million eligible voters weren't even registered to vote," Representative Smith said.

Now Rep. Smith of Eau Claire wants Wisconsin's registration process updated. If Assembly Bill 895 passes, voters will be registered when they deal with a government agency and absentee ballots will be sent to eligible voters each spring and fall as long as they always fill them out and send them in.

"People are going to use those and raise participation in spring elections," Smith said.

But Monday, the WFRW, met outside democratic headquarters saying there's no funding to send those ballots out. They also say registering through government agencies puts people's privacy at risk.

"This will make voting not as secure as it has been. The opportunities for tracking that state's are going to share information about voters through different agencies at the state and national level is worrisome to many," Rasmussen said.

As opinions continue to differ on voter registration, the bill is moving along through the process. But right now, it's not known how much the changes could cost Wisconsin taxpayers.

Rasmussen says she thinks having voter photo identification cards is in the best interest of Wisconsin voters. She says the cards would help protect people against voter fraud.

Representative Smith says five other states are considering modernizing their voter registration process.


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