February 14, 2016

Report details cost of checking voter lists for non-citizens

A review of a proposal to check Wisconsin’s voter list for non-citizens who are registered to vote shows the process could be costly.

The state Government Accountability Board estimates it would cost Wisconsin $1.2 million dollars over the next five years to check state voter lists against the federal Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) program. The process has been used in other states to try and identify non-citizens who may have improperly registered to vote.

The GAB’s Sarah Whitt says the easiest way for the agency to conduct the checks would be to work with the Department of Motor Vehicles, which has been collecting alien identification numbers since 2007. While there are likely thousands of numbers currently not in their database, she says the agency does have records for almost 87,000 people who have a DMV product and an immigration number on file.

Whitt notes that the checks would only catch people who have registered with the federal government. She says it would not be effective in identifying anyone who is in the country illegally and has registered to vote. Similar efforts in other states, such as Florida and Colorado, identified less than 200 people who were registered to vote, despite being non-citizens.

The GAB examined the issue based on a request from Republican state Senator Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin). The chair of the Senate Elections Committee has not decided if she will propose a bill during the upcoming legislative session that would require the checks.

AUDIO: Andrew Beckett reports (1:08)

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