Choosing fiscal conservatism over voter suppression, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker says he no longer supports ending election day registration because of the cost. Walker revealed his change of heart to reporters Tuesday after the state’s Government Accountability Board released a report estimating that it would cost more than $5.2 million to implement the registration change.
Walker had drawn fire from elections officials in the state after he floated the idea of ending the practice of election day registration, a policy that helps the state rank consistently among the highest in voter turnout. He was especially criticized for insinuating that the process was overly burdensome on the typically elderly poll workers. As one 75-year old poll worker put it, “For Walker to say that the people who are doing the registration can’t keep up is just foolish. He should come down and watch once in awhile.”
The backlash grew stronger when it was revealed this weekend that Walker’s son used same-day voter registration to vote last month, and that Walker was by his side as he did.
Walker seemed to be distancing himself from the legislation when he called it “ridiculous” last week, but he credits the new GAB report with changing his mind. The report found that the extra expense—$5.2 million initially, then another $1.9 million every year after—would come largely from requirements the state would suddenly be subject to under the Federal motor voter law. One of the bill’s sponsors said that news gave him “pause” while Walker went one step further, saying, “There is no way I’m signing a bill that costs that kind of money.”
Walker’s response to the report is refreshing, given that his colleague just last week was criticizing the board that released it. Incoming Republican state Senate leader, Scott Fitzgerald, complained on Dec. 3 that the GAB was “not working the way it’s supposed to,” pointing to a series of rulings he found were too favorable to Democrats. He floated the idea of replacing the nonpartisan board members with political appointees, and move that could easily lead to political favoritism on a board designed to be impartial. No word on how Walker feels about that idea.