As the Texas Legislature inches closer to implementing a Voter ID program in time for the 2012 elections, the cost of the measure remains a guessing game if other states are a guide.
A new report from electionline.org, a project of the Pew Center on the States, looked at 14 states, including Texas, that are currently considering legislation requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls. The cost estimates, outlined in fiscal notes for proposed bills in each state, ranges from "negligible" to close to $10 million in Minnesota, according to the report.
The two major costs of a Voter ID program are the campaign to inform voters of the new requirement and the financial hit due to providing free IDs to some voters.
According to Texas' fiscal note for Senate Bill 14, $2 million will be needed for outreach, with $500,000 going to research and develop a public campaign and $1.5 million for media advertisements.
Several smaller states expect that properly promoting the change in voting law will cost nearly as much or more than Texas plans to spend. Minnesota plans to need $2.7 million for its voter education program. Indiana, which already requires voters to show photo identification, reported spending $2.2 million in federal funding in recent years to spread the word of its Voter ID program.
To avoid allegations that the program is tantamount to a poll tax, Texas is expected to provide free photo IDs to those who say they need them in order to vote. The bill's fiscal note does not estimate how much that will cost but critics warned during last week's House debate that millions of Texans could take advantage of the giveaway.
New Hampshire guesses free IDs could mean a loss of $240,830 a year. Wisconsin expects a $2.7 million hit. An Indiana official said free IDs cost the state $10 million over four years, according to the report.
You can read the whole electionline.org report here.