Report: Voter ID laws 'unaffordable' for North Carolina

Cross-posted from the Institute of Southern Studies, by Chris Kromm.

Today, Facing South and the Institute for Southern Studies released an analysis [pdf] showing that a voter ID bill proposed by North Carolina Republicans could cost the state $20 million or more over the next three years, exacerbating the state's $3.7 billion budget gap.

Drawing on data from other states, the Facing South/Institute for Southern Studies report concludes that an effective voter ID program could end up costing North Carolina taxpayers $18 to $25 million over three years, just slightly more than the estimated price tag for a similar measure in Missouri.

The report follows up on a Facing South analysis last week, which documented how GOP leaders are aggressively pushing voter ID bills in at least nine states despite growing evidence that the bills could prove costly to cash-strapped states.

In North Carolina, which faces a budget shortfall of over $3 billion, likely expenses would include::

VOTER EDUCATION: State officials agree that voter ID laws require aggressive publicity efforts to inform voters and ensure they aren't turned away at the polls. In 2010, Missouri estimated it would cost $16.9 million over three years for TV announcements and other outreach to the state's 4 million voters; it could cost North Carolina $14 million or more over three years to inform its 6 million voters.

WHO PAYS FOR I.D.? With studies showing that seven to 11 percent of citizens don't have a photo ID, demands on DMV offices for ID cards will go up -- and so will expenses if North Carolina issues free cards to avoid costly lawsuits claiming the costs of an ID card amount to a poll tax. In 2009, Wisconsin projected a total $2.4 million cost for ID cards; Missouri estimated $3.4 million. In North Carolina, there are reports that a compromise bill would allow voters to use their voter registration cards as a form of ID at the polls; however, the bill would still increase demands -- and costs -- for those requesting ID.

NEW ADMINISTRATIVE AND IMPLEMENTATION COSTS: Voter ID laws add dozens of new costs for state and local officials, from updating forms and websites to hiring and training staff to inspect IDs and handle provisional ballots on Election Day. In 2009, Maryland estimated it could cost over $95,000 each election just for precinct judges in just one county. With agencies strapped for cash, the N.C. legislature would likely need to appropriate millions of dollars each year to help cover these new administrative expenses.

The following chart itemizes the expenses North Carolina would face:

As Facing South reported earlier, these estimates still probably don't reflect the true costs of carrying out a voter ID program. As we found in analyzing the fiscal notes from half a dozen states, most failed to include at least one basic expense needed to implement a voter ID law, such as voter education, administrative expenses and hiring and training additional poll workers.

In other cases, lawmakers acknowledged the added costs, but merely stated they would be "absorbed" by existing agencies -- an unlikely scenario today, given the move to slash budgets at every level of state government.

Voter ID laws have always been suspect, given the miniscule number of cases of voter impersonation, and the disproportionate barriers they pose to the elderly, the disabled, students and low-income voters.

But now, with states still economically reeling, costly voter ID laws would seem nearly impossible to justify -- and resistance could escalate quickly once lawmakers realize they realize they simply can't afford them.


Interesting - but still slightly cheaper than IRV!

Gee - $20 million over three years seems like a bargain when compared to the cost of implementing the unfunded mandate of IRV which would have cost $20 million to implement in the first year and $4 million per year after that. So after 3 years it would have cost $28 million vs. $20 million for voter ID.

Chris Telesca
Wake County Verified Voting


Ordinarily we'd consider a comment like this blog spam. Please stay on-topic (Voter ID).

Voter ID will disenfranchise many voters

so all costs aside, it is still a big concern.

I can see how IRVing done poorly is a related topic though, both in being expensive, and in disenfranchising voters if it reflects their will poorly. (Although IRV need not be a bad thing, depending on how its done, and well it is promulgated, & well designed. Arrows theorem suggests that no system can be perfect, but if there is room for improvement, it could be worth exploring)

With IRV or any poorly designed voting system, you risk your will as a voter not being reflect well. With Voter ID many legitimate voters may be discouraged from voting at all, which would mean their will as voters wouldn't be reflected at all.

And I think losing the legitimacy that a democracy has with its fair and open elections is a higher cost than any million dollar price tag.

If we're really worried about fraud

and feel like we need some level of verification, there are other options. How any ANY kind of identification? Power bill? Magazine with your name and address? Library card? Of course we want every vote to be legitimate, but if there were some kind of concerted effort to organize mass fraud by "dead people voting," etc. it would be immensely more difficult and more expensive to not only give the name and address info to the fake voter but to also come up with a power bill, magazine, etc, with the info on it.

Doesn't everyone get some kind of mail? It comes to you free, so there would be no burden of having to go out and get an government identification card. I certainly would not have a problem with this level of required identification.


Theoretically, that would make it easier

But frankly, I'm not inclined to give any sort of concessions that would give credence to their manufactured wedge issue.

You might want to consider the psychological aspects of that idea, as well. People generally try to avoid embarassing situations, and producing some sort of alternate form of ID is tantamount to declaring you're too poor to afford a glossy picture ID. Best to just stay at home.

I agree it's foolish to think there's a coordinated attempt to vote fraudulently. But there was (in this last election, anyway) a coordinated attempt to intimidate voters, with "watchdogs" allowed inside the voting area, looking over the shoulder of BOE folks when they pulled up a voter's info on a computer.

Excuse my French, but that's the kind of horseshit you'd expect from the Taliban in Afghanistan. And what do you think these jackasses would say/do if someone produced a phone bill or magazine as an ID? Exactly. They'd huff and puff and try to embarass that person even more.

What about college students?

My NCSU ID has no address listed on it. And after moving to go to college almost no one has a license with a current address, or much of anything with a current address. Especially given that a lot of campuses don't let freshman have cars, and you have no reason to update it. I grew up in Mt. Airy, went to undergrad at State living in Raleigh, and moved to Chapel Hill after that.

I've updated my license since moving here, but I don't think I ever had a license that said I lived in Raleigh despite living there for 4 years. Plus college students go from campus, changing dorms all the time, to apartments, to other apartments. I had 5 different addresses in my 4 years in Raleigh.

And I certainly didn't have a powerbill living on campus.

They don't want college students voting

That's the point.