Alabama’s new law requiring people to show a government-issued photo identification to vote is raising some concerns for Jefferson County officials. The law — to get around accusations that it’s a modern poll tax to make people buy ID — requires that the state have an option for a free ID. Jefferson County, which has more voters than any other county in the state, may be forced to come up with money to cover personnel and labor costs associated with producing new voter IDs, said Barry Stephenson, chairman of the Board of Registrars. “I want to do everything possible to help the voters and to have fair and honest elections,” Stephenson said. “However, I only have so many resources in my budget and the state has made no mention of reimbursing the counties for any personnel or labor costs associated with producing the new free identification cards.” The state is going to provide the equipment for the ID cards, “but that’s it,” Stephenson said.
Voters without photo identification will have two options for getting a free ID from the state before the new ID requirement kicks in: voters can go to the Department of Public Safety office in their county and get a free non-drivers identification card. Voters can also go to their local Board of Registrars office and get a free photo voter ID there. The law is scheduled to go into effect with the party primaries in June of 2014.
Commissioner Jimmie Stephens said the requirement is “an unfunded mandate. It’s another, ‘we will give you the technology, we will furnish the equipment, but you’re going to have to” pay for it, Stephens said. “So it’s further stress on the resources of Jefferson County.”
Stephenson said he’s concerned that his office could be overwhelmed by voters who want IDs near an election especially since his office doesn’t know how many may be needed. “The Secretary of State’s office has used the number 12,000 in making an estimate,” Stephenson said. “Jefferson County has 17% of the state’s voters so I can anticipate approximately 2,000 identifications produced by my office.”