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voter registration

Repealing the Wisconsin law that allows voter registration on Election Day would cost the state election agency about $5.2 million right away, and another roughly $1.9 million every two years after that, while also preserving some Election Day registration, according to a preliminary report from a state committee.

That's because two federal voting laws would kick in requiring implementation of a long list of federal registration procedures — including provisions that would preserve some Election Day registration. Because the state enacted a same-day registration law in 1975, it is now exempt from the federal mandates.

Last week, Rep. Joel Kleefisch, R-Oconomowoc, said he and Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, were drafting a repeal of same-day registration, which is used by hundreds of thousands of voters in each general election. The legislators didn't return phone calls or emails seeking comment Monday after the new report was released.

Democrats say the state election registration law boosts voter turnout. Some Republicans, including Gov. Scott Walker, have said Election Day registration causes problems for municipal clerks. But a spokesman for the Wisconsin Municipal Clerks' Association has said the group opposes any change.

The state law allows Wisconsin to remain exempt from federal voter registration laws that would require millions of dollars in expenditures, much of it for required mailings to voters, said Reid Magney, spokesman for the Government Accountability Board, which oversees elections and which released the report Monday.

"In the context of our (roughly $7 million annual) budget, that's huge," Magney said. "We would need additional funding."

Federal laws would continue to allow Wisconsin residents to register changes of address or name on Election Day if they haven't moved to a new municipality, the report states. Up to 15 percent of Wisconsin voters register just before voting, and it's not clear how many of those are address changes, Magney said.

In a few weeks, the committee plans to issue a final report with more detail, including estimated costs for other state agencies.

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