Of all the issues that really disturb me, it is the opposition to voter ID laws by liberals, Democrats, the Holder Justice Department and civil rights groups. While we theoretically require someone to present ID in order to obtain money on a credit card or a host of other transactions concededly less important than voting, the blanket opposition to these laws confounds the bounds of logic and commonsense. There are two lines of attack to these laws. First, opponents trot out studies showing that voter fraud is not a major problem in the United States. Second, the argue that the laws, if implemented, will effectively disenfranchise certain groups of people- namely, blacks, students and senior citizens.
It is true that if one looks at Justice Department statistics regarding allegations of voter fraud, very few accusations have resulted in a successful investigation let alone prosecution. However, that is not to state that voter fraud does not exist. I look at the liberal opposition to Citizen’s United decision as justification for voter ID laws using their logic. For example, much of the opposition to Citizen’s United is based upon the belief that unlimited campaign contributions and such leads to corruption. The Supreme Court noted that this was the basis of campaign finance laws- to remove corruption or the appearance of corruption. However, they can point to very, very few examples of actual corruption. Therefore, they have to base their support of campaign finance laws upon eliminating the appearance of corruption. There is no difference when it comes to voter ID laws. True, conservatives can point to very few examples of prosecuted voter fraud, but voter ID laws certainly help eliminate the appearance of potential fraud. Additionally, simple laws of probability dictate that the potential for voter fraud is higher than the potential for “buying favors” since there are more voters than there are campaign contributors.
Regardless, there are documented cases of voter fraud whether the Justice Department pursued those charges or not. The Brennan Center for Justice- a liberal think tank opposed to voter ID laws- loves to cite statistics stating that the instances of actual voter fraud as so low that ID laws make no sense. However, they rely heavily on Justice Department statistics as if the Justice Department is the be all and end all of actuality. Every election cycle, we read the stories of frauds. It is somewhat ironic that they say fraud is not a problem or does not exist one day while requiring federal observers in certain areas in order to prevent voter fraud. If it is not a big problem, then there should be no federal observers. On the very day that Wisconsin held the recall election of Scott Walker, liberal blogs were lit up with examples of Republican voter fraud. These are the very blogs and alleged experts who claim fraud does not exist or is not a major problem. Either it is or it isn’t; they cannot have it both ways.
Using the “there is no widespread voter fraud” excuse, opponents of voter ID laws then suggest that these laws serve only to disenfranchise blacks, the poor, students and senior citizens. This is based on the assumption that blacks, the poor, students and senior citizens lack the resources or the ability to obtain a photo ID for voting purposes. Indiana and Georgia are two states where voter ID laws exist and have been in practice over recent election cycles. They provide the perfect laboratory to determine if these liberal objections to voter ID laws hold any validity.
First, there is the more general Rasmussen poll which found that 82% of respondents favored voter ID laws. This high approval rate cut across all demographics including those who liberals claim would be more adversely affected. A University of Delaware study found that voter ID laws did not affect voter turn out rates in elections studied between 2000 and 2006. Furthermore, an American University study found that less than 0.5% of all respondents, regardless of demographics, lacked the necessary photo ID in order to vote. Looking just at the Indiana law, a University of Missouri study noted that voter turnout increased in the 2006 midterm elections. What is even more astonishing is that turnout in Democratic areas of Indiana showed a more pronounced increase in turnout. Yet, it is the Democrats and liberals who argue that groups that traditionally vote for them would be more adversely affected. These studies illustrate the falsity of their assumptions.
After passage of voter ID laws in both Indiana and Georgia, voter turnout in both states increased in 2006. That included minority turnout. On both states, despite the allegedly bad effects on blacks, African-American turnout almost doubled in the general election of 2008 over 2004 levels. In fact, Georgia had record voter turnout in 2008 and 100,000 more votes for Democrats were cast than in the 2004 election. Overall, voter turnout in Georgia in 2008 increased 6.7% with Democratic turnout leading the way with a 6.1% increase over 2004. In 2004, blacks accounted for 25% of all voters, yet in 2008 they accounted for 30% of all voters. Further analysis reveals that in 2004, 54.4% of blacks of voting age turned out to vote while in 2008, over 65% of voting age blacks cast a ballot. Compare that with neighboring Mississippi whose minority population mirrors that of Georgia. There, voter turnout increased a mere 2.35% in the absence of a voter ID law. Some may say that minority turnout increased because of Obama on the ballot, the first black candidate. Yet looking at voter turnout in midterm elections with no Barack Obama on the ballot, voter turnout in 2010 increased by over 500,000 over 2006 levels in Georgia. The only conclusion one can derive is that in practice, voter ID laws enhance, not deter, overall voter turnout. Incidentally, lacking photo ID, voters can still cast provisional ballots which will be counted when residency is proven within a certain time period. Despite the allegedly onerous and discriminatory photo ID law in Georgia, of all the ballots cast in 2008, a mere 0.01% were provisional ballots. Put another way, greater than 99.9% of all voters had adequate ID.
The results are similar in Indiana. In 2008, voter turnout in the Democratic primary increased 400% over 2004 levels despite having a voter ID law. In fact, 862,000 more ballots were cast between Obama and Hillary Clinton than were cast in the Republican preference primary. It may also explain why Obama managed to pull off a slight victory in Indiana in 2008. Regarding minorities, black’s accounted for 7% of the electorate in 2004 and that level increased to 12% in 2008. Again, the presence of voter ID laws does not supress votes in the overall sense, nor with respect to any demographic.
Further confounding the argument against voter ID laws, opponents are hard-pressed to produce anyone who was discriminated against and denied the right to vote. They trot out the odd case of some nuns who had to cast provisional ballots, but these same nuns could have driven the two miles to get one before heading to the polling place on Election Day. They also use the case of the veteran who lacks ID (a military veteran’s card lacks a photo?) and a few more hardship cases. Upon closer inspection, however, it is revealed that these people had both the means and the resources to obtain a valid photo ID, but failed to do so through their own ignorance or intransigence.
Opponents also argue that forcing people to get photo ID is akin to a poll tax. They claim that nominal fees charged to get the ID constitute a poll tax. Even if they are not, then the cost of travel to a place to get the necessary ID constitutes a de facto poll tax. If that is true, then traveling to a polling place is a poll tax using this logic.
There is a reason that voter turnout has increased in states like Indiana and Georgia, states that have voter ID laws. More than the alleged negative influences of money in the electoral process, voter fraud has a greater and more tangible effect on the electoral process. Removal of even the perception of fraud makes people more confident of the system. Hence, more people are less apt to “sit it out” and they actually cast votes. That is the experience in Indiana and that is the experience in Georgia. It is also the experience in countries like Mexico where not only photo ID is required to cast a ballot, but they also require a thumb print. In a country with a higher poverty rate than the US and, ostensibly less resources to get a photo ID, voter turnout in Mexico is decidedly higher than voter turnout in the United States year in and year out.
It is ironic that anyone can walk into a store and use a credit card to purchase a $1,000 item and are supposed to provide identification to complete that transaction. Many credit cards now have photo ID imprinted on them. Yet for something infinitely more important- casting a vote, the pinnacle of representative government in action- this Administration stands opposed to voter ID laws. This is yet another reason to vote Obama out in November. One of the great side effects of his ouster would be Eric Holder would go with him. I, for one, say good riddance.