voter ID law

Kampf Responds to Constitutionality of Voter ID Law and Claims No Financial Burden on Local/County Budgets to Implement

The passage of the photo voter ID bill earlier this month by state legislators made Pennsylvania the 16th state to adopt a strict voter identification policy and the ninth state to do so in the past year.  The law requires voters to produce a Pennsylvania driver’s license or another government-issued photo ID, such as a US passport, military ID or county/municipal employee ID.  The state will also accept college ID or personal care home IDs, as long as they are current and include an expiration date.

Pennsylvania’s photo voter ID law will not be in effect for the primary next but will be in effect in November, when Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes are at stake.  Prior to the passage of the voter ID bill, I posted ‘PA Voter ID bill: costly and unnecessary… how about unconstitutional?’ on March 8.  The post included an email sent from attorney and Judge of Elections for Tredyffrin W-2 district, Steve Shapiro to Rep Warren Kampf indicating concern that the photo voter identification legislation, House Bill 934 violated the Pennsylvania Constitution.

Steve received a response from Kampf and kindly shared the  following information to post on Community Matters:

I received the letter linked below in the mail today from Rep. Kampf responding to my email. It does not address the issue I raised — my concern that the voter ID law violates Article VII, Section 1 of the Pennsylvania Constitution (as opposed to the U.S. Constitution, which the letter does discuss) — and I suspect it is largely a form letter sent to all who wrote him about the bill. However, since I published my email to Rep. Kampf, I think it only fair that I publish his response:

https://docs.google.com/file/d/0Bz-1YRHzEOsqTER6TE5UTnVRcHFNQnUxRTI1cEJyZw/edit

I leave the constitutionality battle of the voter identification legislation to the attorneys, but I was interested in Kampf’s response on the issue of ‘cost’ for implementation. The following excerpt from Kampf’s letter, addresses the expense to implement the law:

           ” … Another issue that has been brought up is the cost of this law.  I am mindful of any increases on our already over-burdened budget.  The Pennsylvania Department of State intends to utilize Help America Vote Act funding (federal funding available to the Commonwealth) to fund the cost of the dissemination provision in calendar year 2012. The estimated citizen population in the Commonwealth is 9,642,277 as of January 2012.  According to PennDOT, 9,552,700 adults have a PennDOT issued ID or 99.07% of the citizen population.  Applying that percentage to all registered voters (8,8186,052 as of March 12) would total a potential 76,048 IDs. Not all of these would be paid for by the General Fund if some of those individuals could afford to pay for the identification themselves, or they did not need it because of the other forms of identification now permitted. Further, the Governor has pledged to work with the Aging Office and PennDOT to make sure those who need an identification card have speedy access to one.

            We do not believe this legislation will have adverse impact on local or county budgets. The Department of State will handle the 2012 dissemination requirement and indicates that they are recommending that counties publish the new requirements in their required newspaper proclamations before each election, therefore creating no new additional costs to the counties… ‘

Although Kampf states that the voter ID legislation will not have an adverse impact on local and county budgets, estimates for implementation and education have circulated that indicate actual costs will be in the millions.  The nonpartisan Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center put the estimate to implement as high as $11 million based on the experiences of other states.  If Kampf is correct in his assessment and local municipal budgets will not affected, how will the state absorb the implementation costs?  What programs or departments will need to be cut (or minimally reduced) in the state budget to offset the expense to implement voter identification?

In a difficult fiscal environment, when the state is facing making record cuts to education, higher education and other crucial programs, where will the money come from to pay for the implementation of the voter ID system?  As a concerned taxpayer, I want to believe that Kampf is correct in his assessment and that there will be no financial burden to implement this legislation.  However, as a realist, I don’t see how implementation of the voter ID process is possible without an attached price tag.

Setting aside the implementation cost debate of the voter ID legislation, what about large legal bills when the state is required to defend the voter ID legislation. Lawsuits over the constitutionality of the voter ID law are almost certain, which translates into substantial costs and exposure for Pennsylvania taxpayers.

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