The Assembly Committee on Campaigns and Elections held an informational hearing on the subject of online voter registration on Tuesday. The hearing did not focus on a specific bill, but legislators and speakers discussed how an online voter registration system has been implemented in other states. Currently, 18 states offer online voter registration, and four other states have passed legislation allowing it. Arizona was the first to allow online registration in 2002. Kevin Kennedy, Director and General Counsel of the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, spoke for informational purposes only but highlighted many of the benefits of online voter registration. “Legislation that enables online voter registration would make a tremendous leap forward in the administration of elections in Wisconsin,” Kennedy said. “The basic voter registration data will be more accurate if it is entered online by the voter. Online registration eliminates data entry errors resulting from difficult to decipher paper forms.” Kennedy also said that online registration would reduce issues caused by large voter registration drives conducted by third-party organizations.
“One practical problem we know online voter registration will help solve is the scourge of door-to-door voter registration drives,” Kennedy said. “In theory, grassroots voter registration efforts ease a burden on local election officials and improve voter turnout. In practice, they generate thousands of duplicate registration forms from voters who are not sure whether they are already registered.”
Manitowoc County Clerk Jamie Aulik echoed Kennedy’s testimony that online registration would reduce errors, increase efficiency, and save money. However, he did raise concerns that it would take away the likelihood that municipal clerks would get to know voters in their district.
Aulik also said he would want to make certain that local clerks had the ability to review the data from a state online voter registration system to ensure new registrations or changes are complete and accurate.
“A reporting system of the various transfers is absolutely something I would recommend,” Aulik said during the hearing.