Ending Wisconsin’s practice of allowing people to register to vote on Election Day would cost up to $14.5 million when the expenses of several state agencies are taken into account, a spokesman for the state Government Accountability Board said Monday. Some Republicans have pushed for an earlier registration deadline, saying it would make it harder for anyone to vote illegally. The staff of the GAB, which oversees the state’s elections, studied the idea and in a preliminary report in December estimated its costs for the first two years after a change would increase by $5.2 million. The estimate increased dramatically Monday for two reasons. Since December, four affected state departments — transportation, workforce development, health services and children and families — have submitted their own cost estimates totaling between $9.9 million and $10.5 million, said GAB spokesman Reid Magney. Meanwhile, GAB staff has determined that depending on how state laws were changed, the election agency’s main costs could be held to $3.9 million.
Additional costs would come from responsibilities mandated by federal laws that require voter registration forms to be offered at the Division of Motor Vehicles and at agencies administering programs that help needy people and those with disabilities. The state is now exempt from those mandates because of its Election Day registration law, which was enacted in 1976.
In major statewide elections, 10 to 15 percent of voters register or update their address or legal name the same day they vote.
If the state law is repealed, federal law would still allow voters who changed addresses within their local jurisdiction to update registration records on election day and vote.
Poll workers would be required to issue provisional ballots to those who are not already on poll lists, but who say they are eligible to vote, and possibly to individuals who have moved to a new voting jurisdiction, the GAB staff report said.