Voter ID Requirements Suppress Progressive Voter Turnout
by Project Vote, Thu Feb 15, 2007 at 07:08:33 AM EST
In closely contested elections, turnout is everything. New research shows that voter ID requirements negatively effect turnout, and, for minority voters, by large percentages. This data is especially troubling to progressive voters since minorities are a critical part of any progressive coalition. Given the fact that voter fraud, the rationale for voter ID requirements, is isolated and infrequent, the adoption of voter ID requirements by states should be recognized for what it is: a deliberate strategy to deny minority voters access to the ballot box and suppress voter turnout.
According to an as-yet-unreleased analysis of the 2004 election conducted by the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University, voters in general are 2.9 less likely to vote as a result of ID requirements. The effect increases significantly for minorities. African-Americans are 6% less likely to vote as a result of ID requirements and Hispanics are 10% less likely to vote. Twelve states had some form of documentary ID required in order to cast a regular ballot in 2004.
Since then, 12 states have enacted voter ID requirements (two--Georgia and Missouri--were struck down by the courts) bringing the total number of states with these requirements to 24. Most of these laws were passed on the pretext of preventing "voter fraud". However, a close examination of voter fraud allegations reveals they are made more on the basis of a partisan agenda than on facts. In fact, according to the US Department of Justice, since October 2002, 86 individuals have been convicted of federal crimes relating to election fraud (including several offenses not remedied by ID requirements), while 196,139,871 ballots have been cast in federal general elections. The ratio of confirmed cases of voter fraud to votes cast is so small our calculator renders the answer in scientific notation!
Given the nonexistence of systemic voter fraud in America and the clear and disproportionate impact of voter ID requirements on minority voters, it seems clear that voter ID requirements are nothing more than voter suppression techniques given the force of law. This is especially troubling for progressives since the voters most likely to be affected are from already marginalized constituencies: blacks, Hispanics, low- and moderate-income families.
Unfortunately, voter ID requirements remain on the agenda for many state legislatures. Project Vote is currently tracking tracking elections legislation in 24 states and already a number of them have seen bills introduced to implement or expand voter ID requirements. It is imperative that individuals and groups interested in ensuring that access to the voter rolls is expanded, not narrowed, get involved in these issues.
For information on the Eagleton Institute study you can reach Dr. Tim Vercellotti using the information page at the Eagleton Institute web site.
For more information regarding voter ID legislation you can reach Michael Slater at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For tracking information on state-level legislation affecting elections and voting rights please visit the Election Legislation web site.
Michael Slater is the Deputy Director of Project Vote and director of its Elections Administration Program. Nathan Henderson-James is the Director of Project Vote's Strategic Writing and Research Department (SWORD).