Statement by Page Gardner RE: Wisconsin Voter Registration Effort
February 23rd, 2012
STATEMENT BY PAGE GARDNER RE: WISCONSIN VOTER REGISTRATION EFFORT
VOTER PARTICIPATION CENTER
FEBRUARY 22, 2012
On Tuesday, February 21, 2012, The Voter Participation Center was contacted directly by the Wisconsin Government Accountability (GAB) Board with disturbing news that may impact nearly 75,000 prospective voters hoping to exercise their legal right to register by mail as envisioned by the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA).
The GAB now refuses to forward Wisconsin citizens’ standard NVRA applications to the appropriate municipal election officials throughout Wisconsin – as state election officials in Wisconsin and over 20 other states have done in multiple election cycles since 2004.
They are using a limited exception to the NVRA to avoid processing the forms, an exception they did not invoke with regard to VPC’s 2004, 2007 or 2008 mailings in Wisconsin. In fact, the VPC has sent close to 800,000 federal voter registration mailings to Wisconsin residents since 2004 and this is the first time the state has refused to process them based on this exception.
The GAB’s decision has ominous implications for citizens who have traditionally been underrepresented at the polls and hoped to register by mail.
How can the state suddenly change its past practice of accepting the federal forms at the central elections office (formerly the State Elections Board, now the GAB)?
VPC’s counsel wrote to the GAB on December 16, 2011 and informed them that our “applicants will return these federal forms to your office” and thanked them in advance for their time and cooperation.
We did not expect any objection to this approach since we had used the NVRA form in the past two Presidential elections, and the state agency forwarded applications to local officials.
The GAB had two months to respond to our letter informing them of our decision to use the federal form with their return address and they failed to do so. They did not respond at all and only now plan to use their exemption – after the mailings have reached potential voters – to avoid processing the registration applications of potential Wisconsin voters.
The VPC will continue to work to protect the rights of the Rising American Electorate in Wisconsin and ensure that eligible Wisconsin voters have the opportunity to register and vote in state and federal elections. We sincerely hope to do so in conjunction with the GAB to ensure that these efforts run smoothly and efficiently, with a shared goal of increasing civic participation in Wisconsin.
We encourage recipients of our letters to fill out the form enclosed and return it to the local election officials in their jurisdiction by mail or in person or they can register on Election Day. The list of municipal clerks can be found on the GAB’s website with additional guidance regarding registering by mail, in person and on Election Day.