GOP candidates Legg and Johnson argue over costs of their voter ID proposals

05/08/2011 09:38 AM

Republican candidate for Secretary of States Hilda Legg went on offense with her chance to ask rival candidate Bill Johnson a question during their recent joint appearance on Pure Politics.

She asked Johnson how much money the state might have to pay each year or set aside to cover his proposal to require voters to have photo IDs when they show up at the polls to vote on Election Day.

That sparked an animated discussion about their respective platforms about voter verification — a debate that has been echoed in other state legislatures this spring. Many states are considering following Indiana and Georgia to require those photo IDs at the polls.

Legg starts the question around 1:57 into the video.

“How would someone pay for an ID if they couldn’t afford one? Would you be willing to deny them that right to vote?” she asked. “…What do you think it would cost the commonwealth to enforce a photo ID for the voters?”

Here’s some information about some of the claims both candidates offered:

CLAIM: Legg said about 5% of people don’t have photo IDs. (3:06 in the video)

FACT: The League of Women Voters estimates that nationally, the figure is 11%. And that rate is higher among older Americans — as high as 18% among those 65 and older, who happen to vote at a greater frequency than younger voters.

The League opposes proposals for photo IDs at the polls and for proof of citizenship when people register, saying it could discourage voters and would disenfranchise some people, particularly older and low-income voters, according to the organization.

CLAIM: Johnson said the same costs would be associated with requiring people to bring proof of citizenship to get registered to vote. (3:42 in the video)

FACT: It likely wouldn’t be as much as requiring photo IDs at the polls because more documents can be used to show citizenship than an official photo ID. And because of laws that bar states from charging “poll taxes,” the state wouldn’t be allowed to charge a person to get a photo ID for the purpose of voting.

This spring, Kansas passed legislation that includes a provision to require proof of citizenship when registering starting in 2013. It would mean some county clerks would have to spend money on scanning equipment and training over the next two years, according to the fiscal note on the legislation

CLAIM: Legg said Indiana has set aside $10 million to cover the cost of photo IDs (starting at 4:14 of the video).

FACT: That figure isn’t inaccurate, but that’s not an annual cost and might not be applicable to Kentucky. According to Election Online Weekly’s report on costs of such proposals, the Indiana Secretary of State’s office estimates spending $10 billion between 2007 and 2010 to implement the photo ID system, mostly set aside to provide free IDs to people who couldn’t afford it.

Missouri is expected to spend $10 million to implement the program while other states estimate spending as little as tens of thousands of dollars.

Johnson questions Legg’s use of ‘democracy’

Johnson (12 seconds into the video) questioned why some of Legg’s campaign literature described the country as “a democracy” when in fact the nation is a republic. Legg’s website says “I will be the one in whom you can place your trust to protect our democracy.”

Johnson said “it’s important to be precise” as a candidate for the state’s top elections officer and civics promoter.

If we’re splitting hairs here, the most precise answer is that it the nation is a form of democratic republic.

- Ryan Alessi


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