As Voter ID law opponents continue to push back against the voter suppression strategy in the courts with mixed results, it has been a hard sell in the political war to win over hearts and minds. And with so much focus on the very obvious civil rights arguments repeatedly stressed in the drawn out legal battles over Voter ID, it remains unclear if that narrative works when translated for consumption by the larger public domain. That’s becoming problematic for Black voters. “Yes, there is a pattern heading into 2016,” Congressional Black Caucus Chair G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.) tells the Tribune. “While voter disenfranchisement is nothing new, this is a new iteration of it that we’re very worried about. Most just don’t understand the impact.” Implementation of Voter ID laws, as well as state and local propagation of voter suppression tactics, have already become a drain on already cash-strapped government coffers. To date, Texas has already spent $8 million defending its controversial Voter ID law.
“Feel like you’ve gotten your money’s worth?” argues Texas political blogger Charles Kuffner. “[I]f the state had been a bit more generous with allowed IDs, both providing them and legislating them, they could have spent a lot less on the lawyers defending the law.”
Between 2007 and 2010, Indiana spent nearly $11 million on producing free identification cards, not including the nearly $3 million spent on voter education and awareness. Mississippi, the poorest state in the Union that also has the country’s largest Black population, spent more than $200,000 on voter outreach on its Voter ID laws. Kansas, which just had its Voter ID law appeal rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court, spent more than $300,000 on a Voter ID law website.
By 2012, Virginia ended up paying in excess of $1.4 million for Voter ID-related identification cards. In Wisconsin, which won its long and expensive legal battle in defense of its strict statute when the Supreme Court declined to hear the case earlier this year, is having trouble finding money to comply with its law. And, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, Minnesota is still confused on whether it spent $3 million on implementation since 2012 or as much as $78 million.