A detailed review of the costs associated with HB 351, the Voter Photo ID bill, shows that the costs associated with implementing this bill were grossly inflated.  The cost estimate of $3.2 Million noted in the Legislative Fiscal Note for this bill used dubious criteria to determine how many id cards would likely have to be issued and double counted the the costs associated with the issuance of the cards.  The report was issued on March 22, 2011 and signed by the head of the Fiscal Research Division, Marilyn Chism.  On March 30th, Ms. Chism, a Democrat, was forced to resign her position.  No reason was given for her forced resignation.

Following are my observations and comments on this LFN.  For reference, download the 11 page LFN here.

This report estimates that 14.5% of North Carolina voters, or 885,000 of them, might need to be issued a free voter photo id card.  Now if you’re thinking that 14.5% seems like a high percentage, you’d be right.  The report was clearly designed to be misleading.  The real figure is closer to 1% or 61,000 voters.  Where does the 1% come from?  Why, from the report itself, buried in the footnote on page 5.

Legislative Fiscal Note Page 5 table

Section of page 5 of the Legislative Fiscal Note on HB 351

Footnote 1 makes it very clear that 99% match on either birth date or driver’s license only.  This matching on one field only may be due to changes in name, address or errors in transcribing information from the application.  Nonetheless, these matches were not taken into account when calculating the number of possible voters without ID.  Why?  Because someone wanted to make this bill look more costly than it will really be.  In addition, the report correctly notes on page 6, but does not subtract for, the fact that people may have one of the alternate forms of ID required under the bill such as a military identification card,

No estimate is available regarding the number of voters without DMV-issued identification but who possess an alternative form of identification allowed under Section 1.1 of the bill. Thus, the figure presented in Table 1 should be considered a high estimate of potential registered voters who are eligible for a voter identification card.

To compound the cost, this same percentage, 14.5%, was used to calculate how many people might need a new card if they move or change their name.  This adds another 120,000 to the pool of potential voters who might need an id card, bringing the total number to over 1 million potential cards in the first year.

Using the cost figures in the report, the total cost of the card using the inflated 14.5% is $844,00 while the cost using the more accurate 1% is $409,000.  Big difference.

The big money, though, is in the cost of issuing another potential form of ID that would be acceptable for voting, that is the non-operator’s license issued by the DMV.  It is essentially an ID card for non-drivers.  The LFN assumes that all of the inflated 14.5%, or 1 Million people, will seek this form of ID in addition to seeking a Voter ID card, at a cost of $2.12 per card.  This adds $2.4 Million to the projected cost.

Does anyone really believe that people will be lining up to get both a Voter ID card and a non-operator’s license?  Of course not.  Even the preparers of the report don’t believe it.  Even while reporting this figure, the preparers noted on page 8:

However, given the alternate authorized forms of identification, Fiscal Research does not expect DMV to incur costs at this level.

Even the preparers knew the report was BS and they had to cover themselves in the explanations and footnotes.  Did Ms. Chism instruct that the report be prepared in this manner?  Was that one of the reasons for her resignation?  No one in Raleigh will say but ToD suspects that this report may have been a factor.

Keep these facts in mind when your legislator tries to tell you that the costs associated with the bill are enormous.  Chances are they are relying on this report, a report which is flawed from start to finish.