Thanks to a bill signed by Governor Scott Walker last week, Wisconsin will soon have a fully modernized voter registration system, which will allow any resident with a government ID and an internet connection to register without leaving their home. Perhaps not accidentally, the bill will also make it more difficult for poor people to register.
In addition to setting up a system for online voter registration, the new law also eliminates government officials called “special registration deputies,” who set up and operate community voter registration drives. Voter registration drives have historically been used in poor and minority neighborhoods, where voter turnout is often low, to encourage people to register.
The ostensible rationale for eliminating these drives in the state is that online registration will render them unnecessary. That’s true, for people who have ID and easy internet access. In other words: For people who have money. And as Project Vote notes, no other state has cut registration drives while rolling out online registration.
If you’re a poor person without ID and you’d like to register to vote, instead of working for a few minutes with the person who is canvassing your neighborhood, you’ll now have to travel to your county or municipal clerk and register there—a much more arduous proposition. Unfortunately, doing so would be kind of a moot point. Scott Walker—whose governorship has been characterized mostly by an outright contempt for the poor—made voting without a photo ID illegal in 2011, whether you’re registered or not.