A new study by Wisconsin’s Government Accountability Board, the non-partisan board that oversees the state’s elections, suggests a proposal to eliminate the state’s vaunted same-day voter registration system would carry a massive price tag. The plan — proposed by members of the Republican majorities in the state legislature and backed by Gov. Scott Walker (R) — would initially cost approximately $5.2 million and would not reduce the workload for local clerks, the report found.
The Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel notes:
Wisconsin has allowed people to register at the polls since 1976. Because of the state law allowing election-day registration, Wisconsin is exempt from aspects of the federal Motor Voter Act of 1993 and the federal Help America Vote Act of 2002. Eliminating election-day registration would make those provisions kick in and require people to be given voter registration forms at Division of Motor Vehicles offices and public assistance offices.
Even if lawmakers repeal the election-day registration law, those who moved within the same jurisdiction between elections would still be able to update their voter registrations at the polls under federal law. Federal law would also require Wisconsin clerks to keep names on their poll lists for longer periods of time. Removing voters from the list would be a more costly, cumbersome process that would require sending mail to all voters in an effort to weed out those who have moved, died or otherwise should come off the rolls.
Under the current system, Wisconsin has one of the highest voter participation rates in the country. But beyond suppressing voter turnout, elimination of same-day voter registration would mean millions in new costs for a state that, according to Walker, required a massive “budget repair bill” in 2011 to cut $1.25 billion in aid to education and local governments.
Local clerks and citizens groups have strongly opposed the proposed change. Among those who took advantage of the state’s same-day voter registration last month was Walker’s own son, whom Walker personally accompanied to the polls.