Yesterday, the fiscal note for the latest version of voter photo ID legislation was posted to the North Carolina General Assembly website. The memo is only able to address some of the costs that this new barrier to voting will create, and even this partial accounting shows that it will cost North Carolina millions to solve a non-existent problem. If experiences in other states are any guide, the real cost to governments and citizens is likely to be much higher, and will divert resources from addressing real barriers facing the voting public.
The total official estimates for the cost to state taxpayers of erecting new barriers to voting is between $4 million and $3 million annually, assuming that only 3 new state employees can successfully educate all of our local board about one of the most complex changes to our election process in state history, with no estimate for local Boards of Election charged with the majority of implementation, plus the loss of $3 million annually to the Department of Motor Vehicles for processing and providing identification without a fee. The memo also does not address many of the costs to local governments and Boards of Elections, litigation costs that will almost certainly arise from legal challenges to this legislation, meaning that the real cost to taxpayers is likely to be substantially higher.
These conservative estimates from the Fiscal Research Division are consistent with partial cost estimates produced by the NC Budget & Tax Center in September. Based on experiences in other states and data obtained on the number of North Carolinians who may require new forms of identification, the direct cost of implementation could easily be $9 million. Adding another $3 million in costs to defend this law against legal challenges, and the total cost to state and local governments could reach $12 million.
There is good reason to believe that the real costs to state and local taxpayers will be even higher than either of these recent estimates indicate. Several costly features of the current legislation are extremely difficult to estimate accurately, including: the printing and processing of provisional ballots, the maintenance and administration of the law by county Boards of Election, the administration of providing information to the public about the photo ID requirement, and the potential legal requirement to provide no fee supporting documents for those without identification to secure one. Read more