By State Representative, Leon D. Young
Here’s a news flash: A new study confirms that voter ID laws are very racist. Really?!! But in truth, this finding comes as no surprise to me. Conservative lawmakers routinely tout voter ID laws as a solution to voter fraud, but multiple investigations – including investigations conducted by Republican supporters of voter ID – confirm that those laws are a solution in search of a problem.
Per a new study by political scientists Zoltan L. Hajnal, Nazita Lajevardi and Lindsay Nelson, the empirical evidence reveals exactly what these laws are accomplishing. Per the aforementioned political scientists, turnout among Latino voters is “7.1 percentage points lower in general elections and 5.3 points lower in primaries” in states with strict voter ID laws. White turnout, per their study, is “largely unaffected.”
By way of background, the ploy of using voter ID as a voter suppression tool is a recent event. In 2011, there were 34 states nationwide that debated creating more restrictive voter ID rules. It’s estimated that 11 percent of Americans – about 21 million people – don’t have government-issued IDs, and the clear majority of them are people of color, senior citizens and younger voters.
Republicans are never shy about promoting themselves as diehard patriots. However, their actions and public policy purport a far different reality. As history, has shown time and time again, the GOP does considerably better at the polls when voter turnout is scant. Midterm and spring elections are prime examples of this fact. In truth, there are far more people who are either Democrats or lean in that direction than there are Republicans. Consequently, Republicans must employ one of two strategies, to improve their chances politically at the polls.
The GOP could do some real soul-searching and opt to amend its caustic public policy initiatives that many consider divisive, or simply try to slant the electoral process to give themselves a definite political advantage.
Obviously, Republicans have opted for the latter approach.
The new study also offers a possible explanation for why conservatives are so in favor of these voter ID laws. “By instituting strict voter ID laws (like in Wisconsin),” they explain, “states can alter the electorate and shift outcomes toward those on the right. In states with such laws “the influence of Democrats and liberals wanes and the power of Republicans grows.”
Yet, despite the racist impact of voter ID and a federal law prohibiting such impacts, it is far from clear that the Supreme Court will enforce the Voting Rights Act when it hears a challenge to voter ID. Last year, a federal appeals court struck down North Carolina’s omnibus voter suppression law, after finding that the law was intentionally designed to target black voters and to minimize its impact on whites.
Yet all four conservative justices voted to reinstate this law before the 2016 election.
If Judge Neil Gorsuch, President Donald Trump’s nominee to fill the vacant seat on the Supreme Court, is confirmed, he will likely be the fifth vote in favor of voter ID and its inherent practice of racial voter suppression.