What Voter ID Laws Accomplish, What They Cost

Yahoo Contributor Network

New voter ID laws taking effect throughout the nation could affect the outcome of the 2012 presidential election, according to Politico. Politico noted that the new laws disproportionately affect young and minority voters, a constituency perceived as loyal to President Barack Obama. Some 5 million people may face barriers to voting in the wake of the new legislation.

Who's Enacting Voter ID Laws?

Four swing states -- Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Virginia and Wisconsin -- enacted new voter ID laws, the National Conference of State Legislatures reports. None of those laws is currently in effect except Pennsylvania's. Wisconsin's law was declared unconstitutional, while Virginia and New Hampshire are awaiting preclearance rulings from the Justice Dept., required under section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Close races in swing states increase the likelihood a restriction on voting rights could have an impact on the outcome of the race.

The National Conference of State Legislatures says Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Wisconsin, Alabama, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Louisiana, Michigan, New Hampshire, and South Dakota require voters to produce government-issued IDs, although South Carolina, Texas, Wisconsin, Alabama and New Hampshire have yet to implement those requirements.

Where's the Fraud?

Supporters of voter ID laws contend they are necessary to prevent electoral fraud. LezGetReal took a look at Florida's attempt at purging its rolls of illegal voters, noting the state found only 13 illegal voters and only one of them voting in each presidential election since 1996. The illegal voters uncovered in Florida constitute 0.000001 percent of the total. Extrapolating that percentage to the nation, LezGetReal concluded the total number of illegal votes nationally would be 13.

What's the Cost?

New York University's Brennan Center analyzed court challenges to voter ID laws in determining what costs a state must bear if its voter ID law is to withstand judicial review. According to the Brennan Center, a state enacting a voter ID law must pay for the IDs for all voters who lack them, not merely those who lack funds to pay for an ID. To make voter IDs conveniently available to all, some states may need to open new offices to distribute them or increasing the hours at existing locations. To ensure prospective voters know of the new requirements, states must publicize them. Using historical data, the Brennan Center reported these costs can increase the operating budgets of state election offices by as much as 50 percent.

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