A Republican lawmaker working on legislation to end same-day voter registration in Wisconsin said Tuesday that a new cost estimate of at least $5.2 million gave him "pause" about pursuing the bill.
Repealing the state law that allows voter registration on Election Day would cost the state elections agency about $5.2 million immediately, and another roughly $1.9 million every two years after that, while preserving some Election Day registration, a preliminary report from the Government Accountability Board found.
Rep. Joel Kleefisch, R-Oconomowoc, said last week that he and Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, are drafting a repeal of same-day registration. But on Tuesday, Kleefisch said the repeal was not a priority for Republicans, adding that they plan to focus on pursuing job creation and mining legislation. And he said the cost estimate of millions of dollars in taxpayer money to repeal same-day registration "gives you pause."
"We are stewards of the taxpayers' money," Kleefisch said.
He added that he plans to meet with GAB director Kevin Kennedy to discuss the issue.
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 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, according to the GAB, which released the report Monday. 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. A board spokesman said up to 15 percent of Wisconsin voters register just before voting, and it's not clear how many of those are address changes.
In a few weeks, the committee plans to issue a final report with more detail, including estimated costs for other state agencies.