Hefty price tag has Governor Walker sticking with same-day voter - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Hefty price tag has Governor Walker sticking with same-day voter registration


Eau Claire (WQOW)- Same-day voter registration will stick in Wisconsin; at least for now.  A new report shows how much it would cost to eliminate it and the governor says the price tag is too high for him to consider it.

Same-day voter registration has caused controversy over the years.  Republicans have been concerned about fraud.

"I have personally seen a young man register with a Captain America comic book back in the 2004 Presidential election on the same day," remembers Eau Claire County Republican Chair Brian Westrate.  "I've seen a van load get off and one individual vouch for the residency of 15 or 20 people."

"There really isn't evidence that there's substantial voter fraud at all or that people are registering when they shouldn't be registering," counters Eau Claire County Democratic Chair Beverly Wickstrom.

There's been a push to get rid of same-day registration, but the governor says for now, that won't happen.  A new report from the Government Accountability Board said it could cost the state more than $14 million.

"If it were free, maybe I would be arguing to end it; maybe not," Westrate relents.  "But I think the price tag is too high."

"I think the act would have depressed the number of people who are able to go out to vote in addition to having very unnecessary costs, which in today's economy, we simply don't need," says Wickstrom.

If it were to be eliminated, the state would have to offer early registration services at places like the DMV; and those services are costly.  The city of Eau Claire says more people are registering on Election Day.

"In November, we had just under 7,000 people fill out a registration form on election day in the city of Eau Claire," explains Eau Claire City Clerk Donna Austad.  "It always adds work no matter how many there are, especially on a November election.  We've had some sites that have had several hundred people registering during the course of the day."

That adds pressure to what is already a hectic day for election officials.  No matter what the long-term future holds for voter registration, both sides just want to get it right.

"In the year 2000, George Bush won by about 500 votes down in the state of Florida out of millions, tens of millions cast," Westrate points out.  "So it can come down to that."

Wisconsin is one of eight states with same-day voter registration.  Experts say it leads to higher voter turnout.  We saw a 70 percent turnout in Wisconsin in November compared to less than 60 percent nationally.

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