Some city and town clerks on the North Shore are worried about money if same-day voter registration becomes reality in Massachusetts. 

Beverly City Clerk Wes Slate said it's difficult to estimate the cost of same-day registration, because there's no way to know how many people would take advantage of the service. 

"It's going to be interesting," he said.

There's also the question of whether the state will help pay for it. Danvers Town Clerk Joseph Collins wants the state to give communities enough money to provide the service, plus reimbursement for any new equipment needed. 

Whether same-day registration would occur at the polls on Election Day or at the clerk's office is unknown, Collins said. It would be inconvenient for someone to have to register with the clerk at Town Hall and then travel somewhere else to cast their ballot. But if both registration and voting were done at the polling site, election staff would need to access the state's database. That, Collins said, would mean extra equipment and additional costs. 

Luckily, Danvers has only one polling location — Danvers High School. But Collins said same-day registration could mean much more work for a city or town with multiple polling locations. Salem, for example, has nine voting sites; Peabody has 15.

Both Slate and Collins referred to the experience with early voting, which was allowed for the first time during the November 2016 election. 

According to a report from State Auditor Suzanne Bump, early voting cost Massachusetts cities and towns a total of $1 million in unfunded mandates. 

"The big thing was that it was supposed to increase voter turnout," Slate said of early voting. But he said informal reports, which city and town clerks emailed to each other, showed that most communities didn't have a higher turnout even with the flexible voting schedule.

"Just for convenience, it created a lot of work and a lot of extra expenses," Slate said.

Collins said there was also a delay in receiving early voting guidelines and protocol.

"All of a sudden we had to deal with it, and it took forever before we got the guidelines on it and how to implement it," he said.

If same-day voter registration is approved, he said, "we need the Secretary of State to supply us with the necessary tools, backup and support to do it effectively and efficiently." 

Arianna MacNeill can be reached at 978-338-2527 or at amacneill@salemnews.com. Follow her on Twitter at @SN_AMacNeill.

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