Report: Eliminating same-day registration could cost $14 million

MADISON (AP) — Eliminating voter registration at the polls would cost Wisconsin taxpayers up to $14.5 million, more than double the original estimate, according to a state elections board report released Monday.

The higher costs identified in the Government Accountability Board report come from new registration responsibilities that would kick in at four state agencies if the same-day registration law is repealed.

Click here to see the full report

Gov. Scott Walker and many Republicans support eliminating same-day registration, which they contend is a burdensome requirement on local election officials and can make it easier for people to commit in-person election fraud.

Democrats and other supporters of the 37-year-old law same same-day registration is a vital tool to help first-time voters and others unable to register in advance of the election to cast their ballots. They also say in-person voter fraud is extremely rare and that attempts to end same-day registration are really meant to disenfranchise voter groups that favor Democrats.

Walker said in December that he would not sign a bill to eliminate it if the cost was as high as $5 million, the original estimate. His position has not changed, said Walker's spokesman Cullen Werwie.

Republican state Rep. Joel Kleefisch, who said he would introduce a bill doing away with same-day registration, was reviewing the report but had no immediate comment.

Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said he wanted to take a closer look at the report.

"I am highly skeptical of the estimate the GAB has given," Vos said in a statement.

There have been no formal discussions of a bill in the Senate, said Tom Evenson, spokesman for Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald.

"It's one of the many proposals out there that we'll take a look at," Evenson said.

The Wisconsin Municipal Clerks Association, the people in charge of running elections in communities across the state, last year passed a resolution opposing elimination of same-day registration in part over cost concerns. The state elections board in March 2011 went on record opposing eliminating election day registration.

Elimination of the state law would make Wisconsin immediately subject to both the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 and 2002's Help America Vote Act. Wisconsin is currently exempt from those requirements because it offers registration on Election Day at the polls.

Under those federal laws, Wisconsin would have to establish a system for offering voter registration services at state offices where people get driver's licenses and at agencies that provide public assistance or administer programs that assist people with disabilities.

Costs faced by the four affected agencies - Transportation, Health Services, Children and Families, and Workforce Development - total up to $10.5 million. Expenses to the GAB, which were first estimated to be $5.2 million over two years, were later lowered to about $4 million. That makes the combined cost about $14.5 million.

Wisconsin is one of eight states that allow same-day registration and the law is often cited as a reason why it is a leader in voter turnout. About 70 percent of Wisconsin's voting-age population cast ballots in the November presidential election. Nationally, turnout was less than 60 percent.

In major statewide elections, between 10 percent and 15 percent of voters either register at the polls or update their information there, the GAB report said.

Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

 

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Wisconsin (change)

 
According to the 2010 U.S. Census, Wisconsin’s population totaled 5,686,986, a 6.0% increase over the 2000 U.S. Census count of 5,363,715. (Source: Wisconsin Blue Book)
 
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Governor: Scott Walker
Lieutenant Governor: Rebecca Kleefisch
Attorney General: J.B. Van Hollen

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