JEFFERSON CITY — The cost of Missouri's new voter identification law is still up for debate, as legislators and government officials present wildly different numbers.
Cost estimates range from $300,000 to millions of dollars.
The voter ID law, which was passed in Missouri last year, requires voters to present photo identification at polling locations, though if one doesn't have identification, provisional ballots are provided.
In order to ensure that low-income voters are not disenfranchised, the law states that the Missouri government must pay for non-drivers licenses and backing documents — paperwork such as birth certificates or divorce papers needed to obtain an ID. Advertisements are also required to ensure Missouri residents are aware of the changes.
The changes take effect June 1.
To pay for implementation, Gov. Eric Greitens has recommended a total of $300,000 for the licenses, IDs and advertisements. While some legislators, most notably Sen. Will Kraus, R-Lee's Summit, and Rep. Justin Alferman, R-Hermann, say this is sufficient, other government officials disagree.
The governor's proposed funding for implementation in fiscal 2018 is spread over three departments, with each getting $100,000:
As the secretary of state last year, Jason Kander called for $4.2 million for advertisements for fiscal 2018, much larger than the $100,000 that Greitens appropriated this year.
Current Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft says that number is inflated.
In a budget hearing two weeks ago, Ashcroft said Kander's budget included multiple mailings, which he said are not required by law. The $4.2 million figure was also a two-year rather than a one-year projection.
But Ashcroft went on to say that the number provided by Greitens wasn't enough, either, estimating that the total cost of advertisement would range from $1.1 million to $1.4 million. He downplayed the importance of television announcements and plans to save money by relying on local election officials and organizations such as the NAACP and ACLU to help inform voters.
There is also another assessment floating around the Capitol: the fiscal note. Calculated by the Committee on Legislative Oversight, the fiscal note estimates the advertisements will cost a little more than $2.1 million.
"Zero or over $100,000"
Advertisements aside, the largest unknown stems from the costs of producing IDs and backing documents. While the money needed for radio time and mailings can be calculated eventually, the number of Missouri residents who will apply for free identification is difficult to predict.
Alferman, who sponsored the voter ID bill last year, said the money appropriated initially is irrelevant as the Missouri legislature can always add money to the budget later.
"We could spend zero or over $100,000," Alferman said. "Regardless, we could always add money later through a supplemental budget, and everyone who wants to vote, can."
Traditionally, Missouri residents have paid fees to obtain licenses, as well as birth certificates, marriage certificates and other backing documents. The state of Missouri receives $6 for each non-drivers license and $15 for each birth certificate.
Since the law does require the documents or licenses to be acquired for voting purposes, the committee estimates loss of revenue for licenses alone may exceed $1 million. For birth certificates, the state may lose upwards of $5.2 million. This number doesn't include out-of-state birth certificates also covered under the bill.
Many Republicans, including Alferman and Ashcroft, say the fiscal note isn't accurate because Kander is staunchly opposed to voter ID laws — though not all statistics in the note were obtained from the Secretary of State's Office. Some statistics were obtained from local election boards and the Department of Revenue. For example, the birth certificate data came from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.
Supervising editor is Mark Horvit.