September 1, 2014

Eliminating Election Day registration could cost up to $14.5 million

If lawmakers were to approve a plan to eliminate Election Day registration at polling places in Wisconsin, state agencies could face up to $14.5 million in additional costs. That’s according to a final report out from the state Government Accountability Board, which calculated the cost for it and four other state agencies to comply with federal laws if the option were to be dropped.

Wisconsin is currently exempt from several provisions of the National Voter Registration Act because it allows people to register at the polls. If EDR is eliminated, the state would have to establish a system to offer voter registration at Division of Motor Vehicles service centers and at agencies providing or administering public assistance programs.

According to the report, the DMV estimates it would cost up to $1.7 million to implement the needed changes. The Department of Health Services would incur up $7.6 million in costs, the Department of Children and Families estimated the price tag at about $167,000 and the Department of Workforce Development put its costs at just under $1.1 million. Those costs come from needing to put systems in place to transmit voter registration applications and other voter data, along with training staff to do the work.

The GAB did reduce its own cost estimates for making the changes. An early report put the initial figure at just under $5.2 million for the first two years. Revised figures dropped that to about $4 million. An agency spokesman says the lower amount is the result of staff developing a new way to maintain and update voter information.

Republican lawmakers first started talking about the possibility of eliminating Election Day registration following the November elections, citing concerns that the added burden of having voters sign up at the polls is causing problems for local clerks. Backers of the plan have not yet introduced a bill this session. Governor Scott Walker has indicated he would not sign legislation if the price tag for making the switch topped initial projections of $5 million.

AUDIO: Andrew Beckett reports (1:09)