by Todd Haggerty and Wendy Underhill
What does it cost to implement a strict voter ID requirement? Many legislators would like to know. So would NCSL.
Because we get this question frequently, we looked into it last month. First, we created a webpage with links to many legislative fiscal notes that were attached to this year’s voter ID bills. We then called state and local election officials in states that are implementing new laws this year. Last, we summed up what we had learned about voter ID costs in a short essay in Electionline Weekly. Here’s an excerpt from that document:
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. 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.
Basically, what we learned is that cost has not been a big concern in political debates over voter ID; nor has it proved to be a budget-buster for most states. Some local jurisdictions have concerns about possible incremental cost increases.
Thicket readers probably know that NCSL provides the “just the facts” perspective on voter ID requirements on a routine basis. For instance, we highlighted voter ID in the April issue of The Canvass, and this week’s Legislative Action Bulletin devotes a page to the most recent action.
In tracking the news about voter ID implementation, we see that Pennsylvania’s Secretary of the Commonwealth, Carol Aichele, has clarified that the process for getting an ID for voting purposes will be easy as well as free for people with expired licenses. And, Mississippi’s Secretary of State, Delbert Hosemann, says that he hopes to have voter ID working for the November election—if the legislature passes enabling legislation and appropriates $500,000 for implementation.
NCSL will continue to capture data on the costs of voter ID, especially from the states that are implementing it now. Let us know if you’ve got that kind of information in hand.