Eliminating Election Day registration could cost Wisconsin taxpayers between $13.1 and $14.5 million, nearly three times as much as was originally estimated, according to a report released Monday by state election officials.
According to a Government Accountability Board statement on their report, if the state eliminated Election Day registration, it would no longer be in compliance with federal law and other state agencies would have to offer voter registration services.
Last December, the board conducted a preliminary report providing a general overview of what would happen under the policy change, GAB spokesperson Reid Magney said. That report estimated eliminating Election Day registration could cost $5.2 million.
Magney said the December report did not take into account the cost other departments would incur because of the services they would have to provide to comply with federal law.
According to a statement, while the GAB revised its cost estimation under the change to be $3.9 million, four other state departments, Transportation, Health Services, Children and Families and Workforce Development, would need between an estimated $9.1 million and $10.5 million to meet requirements in the National Voter Registration Act.
“Employees of those partner agencies would need to transmit voter registration applications and other voter data to the appropriate election officials,” the statement said.
However, Mike Mikalsen, spokesperson for Rep. Steve Nass, R-Whitewater, said Election Day registration remains a major risk factor that could cause election fraud.
He added Nass is still analyzing whether to pursue eliminating Election Day registration.
Mikalsen said legislators have to balance whether the costs of eliminating the policy are greater than the risks of election fraud.
“The key about election fraud is that when you try to figure it out, it’s too late,” Mikalsen said. “That is one of the things that Election Day registration allows.”
However, Magney said it is important to note even if the law were changed, the state could not eliminate Election Day registration completely.
He said federal law allows people to change their voting address on Election Day if they have moved within their local voting district.
“I think the report speaks for itself,” Magney said. “Back in 2011, our board voted to recommend against any changes in the law.”
Magney said the main reasons behind the costs would involve having to register voters at different locations. For instance, he said the Division of Motor Vehicles would have to ask every person who comes in to get a state identification card or driver’s license if they wanted to register to vote.
He added if they chose not to register, the department would have to provide reports to the federal government on the number of people they registered to vote and the number of people who declined to register to comply with the law.
Magney said the Division of Motor Vehicles estimated asking people whether or not they wanted to vote could add 30 seconds to each interaction.
“Now, 30 seconds doesn’t seem like a lot of time, but you multiply that by the millions of people who they serve a year and it starts to add up,” Magney said.
State Politics Editor Noah Goetzel contributed to this story.