Last year, electionline ran an article entitled, “Debate Over Photo ID at the Polls Shifts to Costs.” Since then, voter ID — the issue of how voters are identified at the polls — has only gotten hotter. Recently, Pennsylvania enacted photo ID legislation, Minnesota’s legislature put aconstitutional amendment about photo ID on the November ballot, and Virginiasent a bill to the governor, which he proposed changes to. See the National Conference of State Legislature’s Voter ID: State Requirements webpage or last week’s Electionline Weekly for the status of voter ID legislation around the country. This year, cost concerns seem to be buried beneath the partisan debate. And yet money always matters, so the question remains: how much does it cost to implement a photo voter ID requirement? No one knows for sure. There are before-the-fact estimates, and after-the-fact “actuals,” but none are cut and dried. The truth is that the cost of voter ID — like the cost of virtually everything election-related — is hard to estimate, or to measure. For now, we can offer a look at legislative estimates and “boots on the ground” details from states that are in the process of implementing last year’s new photo ID laws, and perhaps explain why these numbers are so difficult to pin down.
The fiscal impact of legislation is usually demonstrated by a fiscal note. Fiscal notes are used by legislators to decide whether or not a proposed bill has merit, to revise a bill or make it less costly or raise more revenues, or to make decisions about the state’s budget or revenues. In some states fiscal notes are prepared by executive branch agencies affected by bills while in other states fiscal notes are prepared by the legislative fiscal staff. No matter who prepares the fiscal note they are an important — and often contentious — part of the legislative process.
In 2012, cost estimates for voter ID laws range from “no fiscal impact” in Nebraska and Virginia to “unknown greater than $7,027,921” in Missouri for the first year of implementation. [Ed. Note: NCSL is working on putting a full list of voter ID fiscal notes on its website. As soon as that link becomes available, we will update this story.] The variation can be explained in part by differences in the legislation—what IDs are accepted, and whether there is another mechanism, such as absentee voting, that won’t require an ID. More significant are which factors states have included in their analyses. Some considered the cost of producing photo IDs for those people who don’t have them, the cost of voter education campaigns, and the cost of retraining the election workforce to apply the new rules. Some states included a revenue drop because state IDs that had been revenue-generators would be provided for free.
Full Article: electionlineWeekly.