A new report from the good people at the North Carolina Budget and Tax Center reveals another reason to be very concerned about the proposed constitutional amendment on the fall ballot that would require a photo ID to vote: cost.
The report (“The Cost of Creating Barriers to Vote: A preliminary analysis of the Constitutional amendment requiring photo identification at the polls”) finds that the new requirement would likely cost state and local government a minimum of around $12 million. That’s enough money to fund any number of important public programs, including modernizing state voting systems to make them less susceptible to hackers.
The report also finds high costs for the more than 218,000 individuals in North Carolina who are currently estimated to not have acceptable identification — between $18.9 million and $25.2 million. These costs will be disproportionately borne by people of color, older people and people of low income. The costs will be especially burdensome for individuals in rural communities who already face significant economic barriers.
And that’s probably not all of it. As the report puts it:
“To be clear, the costs could be far greater than this preliminary estimate suggests given the lack of clear language in the ballot and the resulting need for additional action by the legislature to define implementation of the change, should voters approve it in November. The uncertainties include whether the state will provide an identification card with no fee, the types of acceptable identification that will be allowed, the ability for North Carolina voters to receive an identification by providing necessary supporting documents without paying a fee, and the degree to which North Carolina will commit to educating voters, providing staffing to address wait times, and printing and processing provisional ballots for voters without identification.
Moreover, this report does not attempt to quantify the broader costs to society and the economy of erecting barriers to voting. Historically, across the country, certain politicians have attempted to use restrictive voting laws to rig the system for the wealthy few while cutting funds for our public education, health care, and disaster response. Barriers to full participation in the democratic process could deter the ability of communities’ to quickly and effectively identify and address their own needs and have been demonstrated to reduce economic mobility. It could erode trust and further divide people in ways that worsen our state’s ability to reach its full civic and economic potential.”
The report’s bottom line finding: Rather than erecting new unnecessary barriers, North Carolina could and should pursue smart public investments to protect the vote and ensure fuller participation in the democratic process for all North Carolinians.
Let’s hope voters reject the costly and unnecessary amendment.