When the question arises of whether Texas’ imminent voter ID law will pass U.S. Department of Justice muster, GOP lawmakers routinely point to the existing law
When the question arises of whether Texas’ imminent voter ID law will pass U.S. Department of Justice muster, GOP lawmakers routinely point to the existing law in Georgia, which, like Texas, is subject to federal scrutiny under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. If the Peach State’s experience is any indication, then the Lone Star State should expect to spend millions of dollars on outreach and ID cards in order to implement a voter photo ID law.
From 2006-2010, Georgia spent $1.62 million to institute its photo ID law, including about $770,000 to create its free voter ID card system, and $840,000 on outreach and education, according to a PowerPoint presentation from the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office.
In Georgia, free voter ID cards are issued by county elections offices and Department of Drivers Services centers. From 2005-2010, those offices issued more than 25,000 free photo ID cards, the vast majority from county elections offices, and 51 percent during the 2008 presidential election year.
Outreach and education efforts were robust between September 2007 (the first election with a photo ID requirement) and November 2008. The state produced more than 5 million informational pieces sent via direct mail and inserted into utility bill statements; distributed more than 57,000 pieces (in 633 packages) to non-governmental organizations, such as chambers of commerce, churches and libraries; placed 83,500 automated phone calls; aired more than 1,200 video PSAs and more than 60,000 radio PSAs; and sent out 70 news releases about the photo ID requirement.
The Georgia SOS presentation highlights outreach efforts that involved prominent ads inside the Georgia Dome during Atlanta Falcons’ NFL home games, radio spots during Atlanta Braves MLB broadcasts, and ads inside Atlanta city buses.
According to 2010 U.S. Census data, the population of Georgia is about 9.7 million, which is about 39 percent of Texas’ population of 25.1 million. While Georgia ended up spending $840,000 on outreach and education, Texas’ Legislative Budget Board estimates a cost of $2 million on outreach and training of election workers.
The Georgia SOS presentation shows increased voter turnout between 2004 and 2008, and between 2006 and 2010, across the state’s three major demographic groups — Hispanic/Latino, African American and White. Out of nearly 4 million votes cast during the 2008 election, voters without proper ID cast 1,181 provisional ballots (0.03 percent). Of those provisional ballots, 308 voters returned to county elections offices to show photo ID (26.1 percent).
According to the Georgia SOS presentation:
“In March 2011, the Georgia Supreme Court upheld the photo ID law’s constitutionality in a challenge brought by the Democratic Party of Georgia. Georgia’s photo ID law has now withstood challenges in Fulton County Superior Court, U.S. District Court, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and the Georgia Supreme Court.”
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