Photo ID law wastes money SC can't afford

April 2, 2011 

Lawmakers are considering a law that would require voters to show a government-issued photo ID before voting. This would be an expensive, unnecessary program that we can't afford given the state's $800 million budget deficit.

The bill's proponents say the program will cost $1.3 million in the first year, with ongoing costs of $260,000 a year. But this underestimates the true costs.

Implementing a photo ID law will involve issuing free ID cards to the public, processing more provisional ballots on Election Day, updating poll worker training materials, and educating the public about the new law. At a minimum, notifying the public should involve mailing each registered voter. The cost of postage alone would be nearly $1 million. There is no way it would cost only $1.3 million.

Missouri officials estimate a similar photo ID bill will cost $20 million over three years, and the Institute for Southern Studies estimates that a similar bill in North Carolina will cost at least $18 million. Indiana, which instituted a photo ID law in 2007, has spent $10 million since 2007 just to cover the costs of the free ID cards that have to be offered for the law to be constitutional.

But why spend even $1.3 million on a new program to solve a problem that doesn't exist? There's no evidence of people impersonating someone else in order to vote; but there is evidence that the new requirement will disenfranchise poor people, rural residents, the disabled and students.

Barbara Zia, president League of Women Voters of South Carolina Mount Pleasant

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