Do voter ID laws suppress minority votes? | The Tylt

Do voter ID laws suppress minority votes?

34 states require voters to present some sort of photo identification at the polls, while the remaining 16 use other identifying information, such as a voter's signature. Proponents of voter ID laws say that they prevent voter fraud and encourage public confidence in the electoral system. But many argue that voter fraud is not rampant, and that voter ID laws disproportionately hinder minority votes. What do you think?

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To some, presenting identification at the polls may seem like common sense. An ID is necessary to get on a plane, to use a credit card, even to get into some movies, so presenting one before submitting a ballot is only logical.

In 1950, South Carolina became the first state to request that its residents present some sort of identification upon voting. States gradually followed South Carolina's lead, but it wasn't until 2000 that states required an ID. Inspired by a bipartisan recommendation from the Commission on Federal Election Reform, state adoption of voter ID laws has increased dramatically over the last 18 years.

However, voter ID laws result in an "institutional burden" upon the electorate, disproportionately affecting the poor, the elderly and some racial and ethnic minorities. As Matt A. Barreto of the University of Washington writes:

The set of administrative prerequisites for voting, including photo-identification laws, are one of the greatest sources of cost to potential voters, requiring time and political knowledge to engage the various levels of government to satisfy the rules for participation.

In other words, for any voter that has fewer resources and less access to education, a photo ID requirement diminishes the ability and likelihood to vote. 

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For some, the concern of voter fraud easily warrants the need for voter ID laws. For this group, the laws are necessary in order to establish confidence in the democratic process. As Forbes guest writer Matthew Rousu puts it: 

A voter ID requirement strengthens voters’ rights by protecting the votes of all who vote legally. When voter fraud occurs, it dilutes and weakens the votes of all law-biding voters. One could make a reasonable argument that by not forcing identification and encouraging fraud, you’re violating the promise of one person, one vote. Law-abiding voters are having their votes diluted by fraudulent votes.

Rousu also notes he believes the government should offer free photo identification cards to anybody who needs one. 

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One 2017 study sought to take concerns about voter ID laws from theory to fact. The results were extremely concerning, indicating that voter ID laws both lower minority voter turn out and directly benefit one political party over the other. 

Researchers Zoltan L. Hajnal, Nazita Lajevardi and Lindsay Nielson set the stage for their research in The Washington Post

The key question is not whether there could be worrisome effects from these laws, but whether clear-cut shifts in electoral participation and outcomes have actually occurred. Do voter identification laws skew the electorate in favor of one set of interests over others?

The study uses data from the country's most recent elections, beginning in 2006, and singles out the effect of strict voter ID laws across those elections in multiple states. 

When we compare overall turnout in states with strict ID laws to turnout in states without these laws, we find no significant difference. That pattern matches with most existing studies. But when we dig deeper and look specifically at racial and ethnic minority turnout, we see a significant drop in minority participation when and where these laws are implemented.
Hispanics are affected the most: Turnout is 7.1 percentage points lower in general elections and 5.3 points lower in primaries in strict ID states than it is in other states. Strict ID laws mean lower African American, Asian American and multiracial American turnout...White turnout is largely unaffected.
These laws have a disproportionate effect on minorities, which is exactly what you would expect given that members of racial and ethnic minorities are less apt to have valid photo ID.
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Although Hajnal and his fellow researches claim their study is definitive, there are some obvious discrepancies in their research tactics and conclusions. 

The Washington Post's Andrew Gelman reports on the dissent of a number of political scientists, who all argue that the Cooperative Congressional Election survey results that Hajnal used to match state voter files are: 

...just not an accurate way to estimate turnout in the states and thus how turnout may be related to voter ID laws.

In their own report, this group of political scientists concluded that Hajnal's research methodology and use of data were completely insufficient to make any conclusions about the impact of voter ID laws whatsoever, let alone on minority groups: 

'Using these data and this research design, we can draw no firm conclusions about the turnout effects of strict voter ID laws.'
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For those who believe that voter ID laws should exist to combat voter fraud, their worry is misplaced. Voter fraud is actually quite rare. According to Vox

As Vox’s German Lopez has written, a study by Loyola Law School professor Justin Levitt found just 35 credible allegations of fraud from 2000 and 2014—out of more than 800 million ballots cast.

Fear mongering about voter fraud has led to increased support for strict voter ID laws, and the electorate is suffering because of it. For example, in Georgia: 

The law requires the information on government-issued identification, such as a driver’s license or Social Security card, to match up exactly with the name on a voter registration application. If they don’t match—even because of something like a missing hyphen, an extra space, or a typo—the applicant has to take extra steps to verify their identity.

These kinds of strict laws can have irrevocable results on upcoming elections. Yet again, minority voices are silenced. In Georgia's case:

About 53,000 voter registration applications are in limbo at the secretary of state’s office because the information on the applications doesn’t exactly match up with names on drivers licenses or Social Security cards. The vast majority of those applications belong to black voters, an AP analysis found, and some aren’t even aware their applications are being held up.

These circumstances should not encourage any confidence in the validity of the election process. 

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Clearly, both sides agree that citizens of the United States should have confidence in the legitimacy of elections. Voter ID laws are an effective tactic to establish that confidence, even if the process for implementing them is not yet perfect. 

It is important to view voter ID laws objectively in order to find the best solution. In reality, laws requiring photo IDs at the polls have not existed long enough to accurately measure the impact they've had on the electorate; the conjecture that these laws reduce minority turnout is premature. As Gelman writes in The Washington Post

Voter turnout varies from election to election, and survey-based estimates of voter turnout among different ethnic groups are noisy. As a result, we cannot make such strong and confident claims about any racially disparate effects of these laws.

It is essential that research continues, that alert remains high and that state governments do all they can to ensure accurate, easy voting. 

FINAL RESULTS
Politics
Do voter ID laws suppress minority votes?
A festive crown for the winner
#VoterIDLawsSilence
#VoterIDLawsFair