Ending election-day registration will cost the state $5.2 million or more initially, won’t reduce the administrative work of clerks and will still allow some people to register at the polls because of a federal law. Those details were included in a report sent to lawmakers Friday by the Government Accountability Board, which runs state elections. Rep. Joel Kleefisch (R-Oconomowoc) and Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) are working on a bill to end the ability of voters to register to vote at the polls. GOP Gov. Scott Walker supports the idea, but Senate President Mike Ellis (R-Neenah) has cautioned that Republicans who control the Legislature have not yet decided what they want to do on the matter.
The report also said ending election-day registration would dramatically increase the provisional ballots that are cast in the state. Provisional ballots are cast when voters who don’t appear on a poll list contend they are registered. Provisional ballots are not counted on election day, and clerks and voters have until the Friday after an election to determine if they were indeed registered and had the ability to vote. Any valid votes are counted at that point and added to the total.
“Procedures for election officials to issue, process and canvass provisional ballots are more complex and time-consuming than are those for regular ballots,” the report said.
In addition, an increase in provisional ballots could delay the public from knowing the results in close elections. When the results are narrow, the outcome wouldn’t be known until the provisional ballots are reviewed and counted.
Currently, provisional ballots are given out only rarely in Wisconsin because most disputes can be resolved using same-day registration. If people don’t show up on the voter rolls but believe they are registered, they can simply fill out registration forms at the polls and vote.