This voter's ballot cost $15,625 in Arizona

After Arizona v. Inter Tribal Council, there was Kobach v. Election Assistance Commission, which continues to languish in the courts. The EAC didn't approve Arizona's proof-of-citizenship requirement. And Arizona responded that it would no longer use the federal form for its state elections and opted to create two parallel ballots--one with federal and state offices for those who had provided proof of citizenship, and one with federal-only offices to comply with the NVRA's EAC-promulgated form and to allow those who could not establish proof of citizenship the opportunity to vote.

The silliness may have been evident when it was revealed that Arizona had just 1,479 voters who qualified for the federal-only ballot. The state has a little more than 3.2 million registered voters (PDF). That's about 0.04% of registered voters who could not provide the requisite proof of citizenship--which is fewer than one voter per precinct.

But the EAC wouldn't budge in its position, despite the rule's discernible impact on a slim number of potential voters (voters who may eventually be able to establish such proof).

And neither would Arizona budge, deciding to print two sets of ballots in its primary election.

That decision is not costless. Maricopa County, for instance, is spending $250,000--that's a quarter of a million dollars--to print two sets of ballots for the primary and the general election.

And as the primary drew to a close this week, it turned out that just 21 voters used the federal-only ballot. That's among about 820,000 ballots cast (PDF).

Only eight of them reside in Maricopa County.

Assuming half of the cost of printing was for the primary, that's $125,000 spent to print ballots that eight voters used--meaning it cost $15,625 per ballot cast.

Doug Chapin asks what this means. Here's the hard questions both sides have to answer.

For Arizona, is proof-of-citizenship worth it? It's not even clear how many of these 21 primary voters were actually non-citizens, after all; it's that they were (or had been) unable to provide the required proof of citizenship. Election administration cannot be perfect. At a cost of tens of thousands of dollars per vote affected--and, even then, only affected in statewide elections--it might be the time to revisit the ballot initiative that made the proof-of-citizenship requirement and ask the voters to amend, or even repeal.

For the EAC, is this fight worth it? A miniscule number of voters are adversely impacted by Arizona's proof-of-citizenship requirement. And while we want to ensure that eligible voters can actually register, it's hard not to make the judgment that maybe this is not the regulatory hill worth dying on. Further, Arizona can still exclude these voters in its statewide elections (as it chose to do), and the EAC's regulation would only have the impact in federal elections--when voters are casting ballots for just one to three offices compared to numerous statewide elections on the ballot.

Maybe the two sides will figure out the proper cost-benefit analysis, or maybe it's just a case of dogged refusal to budge from previously-stated positions. But it's obvious from this calculation that the battle does have an actual, calculated pricetag per impacted actual voter--and that we're left guessing about the other risks and potential costs or benefits as the two sides dig in.