The Truth About Voter ID Costs

Over 32 states are considering voter ID legislation and many of them now realize they have no idea how to pay for these measures.  As we concluded in The Cost of Voter ID Laws: What the Courts Say, legislators who still wish to pursue photo ID requirements for voting must ensure that the laws provide for free photo IDs, ensure that IDs are reasonably accessible to all eligible voters, and include sufficient voter education and outreach programs and poll worker training.  Fulfilling these constitutional requirements will involve a lot of money that states simply do not have.

March 10, 2011

Over 32 states are considering voter ID legislation and many of them now realize they have no idea how to pay for these measures.  As we concluded in The Cost of Voter ID Laws: What the Courts Say, legislators who still wish to pursue photo ID requirements for voting must ensure that the laws provide for free photo IDs, ensure that IDs are reasonably accessible to all eligible voters, and include sufficient voter education and outreach programs and poll worker training.  Fulfilling these constitutional requirements will involve a lot of money that states simply do not have.  Below is a summary of the fiscal challenges some localities are handling. 

Nebraska

After listening to concerns over implementation costs, Senator Charlie Janssen is now proposing an amendment to his voter ID bill that would add non-photo ID and voter registration confirmation cards to the list of acceptable forms of voting identification.  But the measure, according to Larry Dix, the executive director of the Nebraska Association of County Officials, would still be costly.  Dix, as quoted in the Omaha World-Herald, said few voters keep their registration confirmations and counties would need to print and mail replacements.

Oh, and Nebraska faces a $1 billion budget shortfall.

Wisconsin

In Wisconsin, the Eau Claire City Council is considering issuing a resolution against a voter ID bill under consideration in the state legislature.  City and county election officials have all agreed that the cost of enacting voter ID will overburden a state that already has enough budget problems (in case you haven’t heard).

Implementing the voter ID bill “could cost the state $4.5 million to educate and update,” Eau Claire City Manager Mike Huggins told WEAU 13 News.  According to the Washington Post, a legislative analysis shows the Wisconsin measure would cost $2.7 million a year.

Jones County Election Chief Janine Sulzner, a Republican, also told WEAU News that the state would need to engage in a widespread education campaign otherwise she fears many citizens will be discouraged from voting.  Sulzner said a public voter ID education campaign cost Indiana $600,000 last year and has cost $2.2 million since the law was passed in 2005.

Iowa

The Iowa State Association of County Auditors (ISACA), which provides guidance on and implements election laws in the state, recently came out in opposition to a proposed voter ID bill.  Stacey Feldman, the Plymouth County auditor who attended a recent ISACA meeting, told the Le Mars Daily Sentinel that “the biggest thing is voter education. There's a huge emphasis put on educating the public and the voter of the change if it were to pass. And there's no funding behind it.”  She said county officials were afraid costs would trickle down to the county level, making these low-resourced localities responsible for an unfunded mandate.  Feldman also told the Sentinel that she feared ID restrictions would lower voter turnout.

Other county officials expressed concern as well.  “We already have a very secure elections process. It doesn’t seem to make good sense in tough economic times to increase the costs and make it more difficult to vote,” said Tom Slockett, Johnson County’s 34-year elections chief. “[Voter ID] could be a chilling factor to people who aren’t real motivated to vote anyway.”

Texas

Texas is also facing financial difficulties with a projected budget shortfall of $27 billion yet state legislators are seriously considering a voter ID bill that would cost $2 million to implement.

North Carolina

A Facing South/Institute for Southern Studies report found that a voter ID law in North Carolina will cost $18 to $25 million over the next three years.  The State faces a $3.7 billion budget gap, and the state legislature has yet to introduce a suitable voter ID bill.