Remember when Republicans were the ones railing against “unfunded mandates” that put new, costly requirements on local governments without providing any money to pay for them. As I skimmed the prefiled bills for the legislative session that kicks off tomorrow, I noticed HB63 — mandating a government-issued photo ID for all voters — is a perfect example of an unfunded mandate.
The purpose or effect of this bill would be to require a new or increased expenditure of local funds within the meaning of the amendment. However, the bill does not require approval of a local governmental entity or enactment by a 2/3 vote to become effective because it comes within one of the specified exceptions contained in the amendment.
They know it will cost already cash-strapped local governments more, but there is not even a fig leaf toward helping them pay for it. And the costs are not trivial — to include providing a new state photo ID for everyone without one, increased election costs, costs for voter education, and of course, litigation. An analysis by the Institute for Southern Studies found that …
…a voter ID bill proposed by North Carolina Republicans could cost the state $20 million or more over the next three years …
From a recent report on the costs of voter id laws (bold mine):
A fiscal note prepared in conjunction with aproposed photo ID law in Missouri estimated a cost of $6 million for the first year in which the law was to be in effect, followed by recurring costs of approximately $4 million per year.
Although the costs will vary from state to state, they will likely run into the millions of dollars per state per year and dramatically increase the cost of administering elections. Even if a state incurs these costs, its photo ID requirements may still be vulnerable tosuccessful constitutional challenges; and a state that does not allocate sufficient funds to cover these costs will likely see its law struck down. States should therefore consider whether, in these difficult budgetary times, it is worth the dent in their budgets to introduce a new and controversial election procedure that has not been shown to improve election security.
Photo ID for voters has been on the conservative wish list for years, even though there is no evidence a photo ID law would prevent any significant voter fraud. To be charitable, this is a solution looking for a problem — to be less charitable it's an opportunity to suppress certain voters. Either way, this is where Republican authoritarian ideals come up against their supposed fiscal restraint ideals. We'll see which one wins.
The “as introduced” version of HB63 is below the fold.