South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson’s office spent $3.5 million defending the state’s voter ID law in federal court, the Republican AG told state lawmakers Friday morning. That’s half a million dollars more than Wilson’s estimate two months ago, and more than three times what the state’s lawsuit was originally estimated to cost last year.
And what did South Carolina taxpayers get in return for their investment? Well, not much. For example, the voter ID law doesn’t actually require voters to show an ID. People with only a voter registration card can still vote if they sign an affidavit stating why they don’t have an ID, and elections officials are not allowed to challenge the validity of the explanation.
On top of that, the problem which the voter ID was designed to solve — in-person voter fraud at the polls — doesn’t actually exist. Not a single case of voter impersonation has been documented in South Carolina, and just 10 cases of in-person voter fraud have been reported since 2000 — about one case of fraud for every 15 million voters.
As we reported back in October, that’s a rate of just .83 cases of voter fraud per year in the U.S. — or about .016 cases per state per year. If we apply that rate to the amount South Carolina has spent on its Republican voter ID law, we find that each case of voter impersonation is worth approximately $220 million. For a party that claims to support judicious spending of taxpayer money, that doesn’t seem like a very particularly wise investment.
Let’s look at this another way, since Republicans are always saying that government should be run like a business. Say you’re a stockholder of a corporation whose board of directors tells you it needs to spends millions of dollars to fix a certain problem within the company. This problem is a threat to the company’s very existence, they say, though many stockholders are skeptical of the claim.
Regardless, the board of directors moves ahead with their plan — and ends up going over-budget by more than three times their original estimate. Once that money has already been spent, you learn that the board’s expensive plan didn’t actually fix them problem. Not only that, you learn that the problem never even existed in the first place.
Is that a company you’d want to invest in?