An analysis of information obtained through open records requests from The Guardian found that enforcing Republican-supported voter identification laws is an extraordinarily expensive endeavor, already costing taxpayers at least $36 million in several states. Expenses pile up because of “the partial costs of litigation, free identification cards, public education and other fees,” The Guardian observed.
Kentucky is one of several states that has spent millions enforcing voter identification laws, even while states make heavy budget cuts to contend with the current economic crisis.
“While the rest of the state was under “stay-at-home” advisories because of coronavirus, the Kentucky legislature convened in early March and April in order to pass its voter ID bill and then again to override the governor’s veto,” The Guardian noted. The law, SB2, requires voters to present identification at the polls as well as when sending in absentee ballots. The mere provision of the law would cost at least $3.6 million per year.
In Indiana, implementing voter identification legislation has cost nearly $30.5 million since January 2006. And in Texas, “the process of implementing a strict voter ID law dragged on for almost seven years, during which the state spent at least $3.5m on attorney’s fees, outside counsel, travel expenses, and expert witnesses.” The case dragged on so long that the state’s attorney-general had to enlist the help of lawyers from other departments. Although the law survived these legal challenges, the state was ultimately ordered to pay plaintiffs $6.8 million in fees.
Public outreach has also added to the expense. For instance, Kansas spent at least $430,000 on its public outreach during the first three years of passing its voter identification laws. Wisconsin spent $631,899 in its first year alone. “Even with heavily discounted rates from TV and radio stations, the critical swing state has spent nearly $1.2m on its “Bring It to the Ballot” campaign, which includes radio spots, brochures, and TV ads,” The Guardian notes.
Voter identification laws have been criticized as both ineffective and discriminatory. For example, an April 2017 study published in The Journal of Politics found that strict identification laws have a differentially negative impact on the turnout of racial and ethnic minorities in primaries and general elections.” Moreover, these laws “skew democracy toward those on the political right.”
Alan is a writer, editor, and news junkie based in New York.