Do voter ID laws discourage voters? Yes

Does this sound familiar? Over the last few months I’ve found myself caught up in a serial argument about the election.

The argument: Hillary lost because…

I’m not going to repeat the list of reasons sane and informed people present after “…” because all of you have heard and/or even argued them. Over and over. With or without “Bernie would’ve won” thrown in.

I keep murmuring, “seventy-seven thousand voters” and “voter suppression” and “gerrymandering.” (Although gerrymandering does not on its face affect presidential voting totals, I’d suggest it does: voters in gerrymandered districts might well be so discouraged when the same representative they loathe keeps winning they just don’t vote, in any election. They’ve lost any sense of the value of their votes.)

And now, as we’ve all read, the minority that is the GOP has been so encouraged by Trump’s bizarre accusations of voter fraud, even more GOP-controlled states are engineering voter suppression mechanisms. (At this point my fingers so want to write EVIL PEOPLE EVIL PEOPLE EVIL— but I have some control over my fingers and will attempt to suppress them. Although those CAPS up there would seem to suggest otherwise. Never mind. Let’s go on.)

Today, Daily Kos Elections published news of a new academic study about this. It is stomach-churning, but factual and real and must go to the top of our Trump To Do list. Because every American citizen has the constitutionally protected right to vote. [My bolding.]

Daily Kos Elections Voting Rights Roundup

Voter ID: We’ve always suspected it, but now new academic research confirms it: Strict voter ID laws do indeed disproportionately lower turnout among Latino, black, and Asian voters compared to whites, which of course benefits conservatives and the Republican Party. The authors of this new study found that strict ID laws—where registered voters must show a photo ID to have their vote count, and no exceptions are permitted—depressed Latino turnout rates the most, followed by black and Asian-American turnout, yet white turnout was largely unaffected.

Those findings held true even when researchers accounted for a variety of other factors, and they were even more acute in primaries. That latter point is critical because many states and cities hold elections for important races such as city council seats, judgeships, and even state constitutional amendments at times other than November general elections. It also means voter ID can make even Democratic primary electorates whiter. In sum, these effects yield electorates that are whiter and more conservative—and consequently more Republican-leaning.

The study’s authors attempted to improve upon previous research that had generally been inconclusive. Among other things, this newer study used data from as recently as 2014. That date is crucial because many states only passed strict voter ID laws after Republicans took power following the 2010 elections. In addition, states like Texas were only able to implement their strict ID laws once the Supreme Court gutted an essential provision of the Voting Rights Act in 2013. As more detailed 2016 data becomes available, future scholarship should be able to more definitively quantify just how racially discriminatory voter ID laws truly are.

Republicans always claim voter ID laws are meant to stamp out voter fraud, but a large body of research has already proven just how incredibly rare such fraud is. In fact, one review of votes cast in 2016 so far found only four cases of so-called “impersonation” fraud in an election in which nearly 140 million Americans cast ballots. This latest research further demonstrates just how, well, fraudulent Republican justifications for voter ID really are. In the end, they’re nothing more than an effort to suppress Latino, black, and Asian-American voters from casting ballots.



This entry was posted in voting rights and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.