Forget the evidence — it’s the efforts at voter suppression that raise concern
Jeff Jacoby (“Chill out on the voter ID laws fight,” Opinion, Feb. 21) errs in equating voter ID laws with voter suppression in general. It may be, as Jacoby asserts, that voter ID laws have little effect on voter turnout. Jacoby cites recent increases in the percentage of nonwhite voters as evidence that voter suppression is not occurring, but that is meaningless since we cannot know whether voter suppression actually occurred and whether the turnout would have been even higher in the absence of voter suppression.
The real problem is the continuing Republican efforts at voter suppression, including unwarranted purging of voter rolls, arbitrary tightening of requirements for early and absentee voting, and unjustified closing of polling places in minority neighborhoods. One does not have to be a Democrat or a liberal activist to favor increasing the fairness of elections by eliminating voter suppression.
David A. Ernst
Bad news for GOP
While the effects of voter ID laws may be “mostly null,” as Jeff Jacoby notes, the intent certainly isn’t insignificant. As Kevin Drum pointed out in Mother Jones:
“If you’re a Republican, this is bad news because you’ve been wasting a lot of time and money trying to repress the votes of Democratic-leaning groups, and apparently it doesn’t work. If you’re a Democrat, this is good news on two fronts. First, it means voter ID laws probably aren’t reducing Democratic turnout after all. Second, it does nothing to rebut the abundant evidence that blacks and Hispanics were the target of these laws, regardless of whether they worked. The fact that Republican leaders are incompetent racists makes them no less racist.”
ID laws leave countless voters dizzied into inaction
Having been in the voter ID trenches since 2012, educating and helping eligible voters on a nonpartisan basis to ensure that they have a valid ID along with required underlying documents, such as a birth certificate, if needed, here’s our response to “Chill out on the voter ID laws fight”:
Tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of eligible voters nationwide are so confused and intimidated that they will not vote, even though they have an acceptable ID (or do not know that none is needed in their state).
Further, contrary to the National Bureau of Economic Research study cited by Jacoby, another current NBER study, “Effects of Photo ID Laws on Registration and Turnout: Evidence from Rhode Island,” found that “turnout, registration, and voting conditional on registration fell for those without licenses after the law passed. We do not find evidence that people proactively obtained licenses in anticipation of the law, nor do we find that they substituted toward mail ballots which do not require a photo ID.”
Please note as well that the only types of ID that are common to all 36 states with voter ID laws are a current driver’s license or state ID in the voter’s state. Roughly 25 million voting-age Americans do not have a current government-issued photo ID.
Voter ID laws disproportionately affect citizens without a current driver’s license in their state: older adults, students and young voters, people with disabilities, voters of color, and those with low income. Such voters number in the hundreds of thousands in each state.
President and CEO
Santa Monica, Calif.