Experts make case for online voter registration at State Capitol - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Experts make case for online voter registration at State Capitol

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MADISON (WKOW) -- Online voter registration is already a reality in nearly 20 states and experts on the issue made their case for why Wisconsin should consider adding itself to that list at a Tuesday hearing before the Assembly Committee on Campaigns and Elections. 

Several Republican committee members came to the hearing with a fair amount of skepticism on the issue.  

"There is clearly some dissent of people who believe that online voter registration is going to lead to challenges in making sure that the people are actually who they say they are when they register," said Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt (R-Fond du Lac).

But much of that skepticism appeared to soften after a number of speakers addressed concerns like that.

"Overall, an online system is simply going to be more accurate, because there's less room for error," said Benjamin Ginsberg, a GOP attorney and lobbyist who co-chaired the Presidential Commission on Election Administration.

"Its also important to note in the twelve years that we have had our system, we have had zero registration frauds through the online system," said Tammy Patrick, an election official in Maricopa County, the largest county in Arizona.

Arizona was the first state to establish online voter registration in 2002.  Patrick told committee members that it has not only led to fewer errors and more secure registration, but has cut taxpayer costs dramatically.

"We had 1.7 million registration forms come through the online system and it saved us $1.4 million in a four year period in one county, which is amazing," said Patrick.  "At the state level they've seen about $4 million (in savings) over the course of the time that we've had the online system."

That savings comes in the form of fewer man hours needed to process paper registration forms.

"That is a piece of information that will really move folks on the other side of the aisle that are more conservative and very fiscally conservative," said Rep. JoCasta Zamarripa (D-Milwaukee), who supported a 2013 bill written by fellow committee member Rep. Terese Berceau (D-Madison) that called for the establishment of online voter registration.

Republicans incorporated the online registration language from that bill into a larger piece of election legislation that passed the Assembly this past session.  It failed to get through the Senate, but could get new life in 2015.

"I'm not gonna say Wisconsin should definitely implement something that this point, but I'm certainly more curious than I was before," said Thiesfeldt, who said he was particularly impressed by the cost savings generated by online registration.

Wisconsin currently allows people to register to vote in person or by mail.

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