MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Gov. Scott Walker signaled in a weekend speech that he may push for elimination of same-day voter registration, saying he thinks Wisconsin would be "much better" without it.
Walker made the comments as part of a speech he gave Friday night at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Foundation in Simi Valley, Calif., in which he talked in general terms about his agenda for the upcoming legislative session. He did not say whether he would propose doing away with same-day registration, which has been targeted by Republicans in the past.
However, he was critical of the practice that has been cited as a factor in Wisconsin's traditionally high voter turnout. About 70 percent of the voting-age population cast ballots in the presidential election two weeks ago.
"States across the country that have same-day registration have real problems because the vast majority of their states have poll workers who are wonderful volunteers, who work 13 hour days and who in most cases are retirees," Walker said in the speech. "It's difficult for them to handle the volume of people who come at the last minute. It'd be much better if registration was done in advance of election day. It'd be easier for our clerks to handle that. All that needs to be done."
Walker spokesman Cullen Werwie didn't have anything to add Monday. He said the governor would evaluate any bill on the subject before deciding whether to sign it - Werwie's standard reply when asked about possible pending legislation.
Incoming Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, who has introduced proposal to do away with same-day registration in the past, said Monday he was open to the idea but hadn't spoken with Walker about it. If it were to be brought up, Vos said it likely would not be early in the session that begins in January.
Vos said he favored Wisconsin implementing the "motor-voter" system in which people could register to vote when obtaining their driver's license at the state Division of Motor Vehicles.
Wisconsin is able to avoid that federal requirement because it offers same-day registration. If it did away with registering at the polls, it would have to then allow voters to register when getting their driver's license.
Democrats reacted angrily to Walker's comments.
"As evidenced by robust levels of voter turnout and participation, Wisconsinites take our civic duty seriously, and same-day voter registration has played a part in ensuring that every eligible elector is able to cast their ballot," state party chairman Mike Tate said in a statement.
Tate said Walker and Republicans want to make it more difficult for people to vote, citing the law passed last year requiring photo identification at the polls. While parts of the law have taken effect, two different judges have blocked the photo ID requirement, saying it is unconstitutional. The decisions are being appealed.
Wisconsin is one of eight states that allow same-day registration, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. California and Connecticut have approved it, but the laws have not yet taken effect.
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