Walker / AP Photo/Morry Gash
MADISON — Doing away with same-day voter registration in Wisconsin would cost nearly $5.2 million initially, and nearly $1 million every year after that, state elections officials said in a memo that comes as talk of changing the law heats up.
The report from the Government Accountability Board delivered to lawmakers on Friday came after two Republicans said they will introduce a proposal next year to repeal Wisconsinís law allowing voters to register at the polls. Such a move would make the whole process of voting more complex and costly, the GAB said. The state would have to make changes that include offering new ways for people to register to vote.
Republican Gov. Scott Walker said earlier this month he would sign such a bill, but itís not a priority for him and he wonít be pushing the issue in the Legislature. His spokeswoman Jocelyn Webster said Tuesday that any issue like eliminating same-day voter registration that is outside of his five priorities is a ďdistraction.Ē
Republican Senate President Mike Ellis stressed Tuesday that GOP senators havenít discussed the issue yet.
The legislative session begins Jan. 7.
Wisconsin, which has had same-day registration since 1976, is one of eight states allowing it. California and Connecticut have approved it, but the laws have not yet taken effect.
The law is often cited as one reason Wisconsin is a leader in voter turnout. About 70 percent of Wisconsinís voting-age population cast ballots in the November presidential election.
Republicans, including Walker, have long talked about doing away with it claiming that itís a burden on local election officials and increases the chances of voter fraud. Democrats and other supporters of same-day registration say itís a vital tool to help first-time voters and others unable to register in advance of the election to cast their ballots.
Between 10 percent and 15 percent of people who vote either update their information on election day or register at the polls, the GAB report said.
Wisconsin was not subject to a pair of major federal voter laws ó 1993ís National Voter Registration Act and 2002ís Help America Vote Act ó because it has same-day registration. Elimination of the state law would make Wisconsin immediately subject to both those federal laws, the GAB report said.
That would require the state to establish a system for offering voter registration services at Division of Motor Vehicle offices where people get their driverís licenses as well as at agencies that provide public assistance or administer programs that assist people with disabilities, the report said.
Even if the state law were overturned, federal law would still require poll workers on election day to update votersí registration information if they have moved within their jurisdiction, the report said. Poll workers would also be required to issue provisional ballots to anyone not registered but who declare they are registered, the report said.
The initial cost over two years would be nearly $5.2 million. That includes $1.9 million in voter list maintenance expenses, $1.2 million in information technology costs, $1.2 million in public outreach and education and $800,000 in training and staffing.
A more detailed report, including expenses for other state agencies that would be affected by the law change, was expected to be completed in weeks.
Incoming Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, who has introduced a proposal to do away with same-day registration in the past, said earlier this month that he was open to eliminating same-day registration but hadnít spoken with Walker about it.
Republican Sen. Alberta Darling and Rep. Joel Kleefisch said last week they would propose doing away with the law. Kleefisch said he was talking with others about the bill, but echoed Walkerís comments by saying it wasnít a priority. He said he hadnít reviewed the GAB report.
ďAny time you talk about taxpayer dollars paying for anything and itís in the millions, it gives you pause,Ē he said.
Darlingís spokesman Bob Delaporte said she had not reviewed the GAB report and had no comment.
Sen. Chris Larson, the incoming Democratic Senate leader, said he didnít think Republicans pushing for a law change would be swayed by the report.
ďA lot of what theyíre doing is ideological,Ē Larson said. ďThey are fundamentally committed to making it harder for people to vote in our state. I donít think they care so much if it costs the state money. Their goal is to try and cut down the number of voters we have in the state of Wisconsin, period.Ē