Minority turnout increased dramatically after Georgia voter-ID law

posted at 2:41 pm on September 3, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

Politico’s Mike Allen called this “the most surprising story of the day” [see update!], which really only applies to the hysterics and the demagogues who oppose measures to combat ballot fraud.  After Georgia passed a voter-ID requirement in time for the 2008 election cycle, critics claimed that it would suppress black and Hispanic votes and lead to a new era of Jim Crow.  Instead, as the Atlanta Journal-Constitution discovered, it’s led to a new era of eating crow (via The Corner):

When Georgia became one of the first states in the nation to demand a photo ID at the ballot box, both sides served up dire predictions. Opponents labeled it a Jim Crow-era tactic that would suppress the minority vote. Supporters insisted it was needed to combat fraud that imperiled the integrity of the elections process.

But both claims were overblown, according to a review of by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution of statewide voting patterns in the five years since the law took effect.

Turnout among black and Hispanic voters increased from 2006 to 2010, dramatically outpacing population growth for those groups over the same period.

The AJC frames this in a strange manner, comparing a factual with a hypothetical counterfactual:

On the other hand, Georgia’s top elections official could not point to a single case of ballot fraud the voter ID law had prevented.

Er, perhaps that’s because it actually prevented the ballot fraud from taking place.  Either the top elections official doesn’t understand the word “prevented” or the reporter doesn’t.  If the argument is that election judges didn’t have to stop anyone who used fraudulent ID to attempt to cast a vote, that would be an interesting claim to investigate — but it doesn’t speak at all to deterrence, which is after all what “prevented” means in this context.  The effect of checking IDs could very well have deterred those who would otherwise have engaged in nearly risk-free fraud before voter-ID from attempting vote fraud after it.  In other words, anything “prevented” would therefore be unknown to everyone.

And just a couple of paragraphs later, we actually get evidence that it might well have prevented more than a thousand cases of fraudulent voting:

Still, the law has had real and measurable effect for some voters: Since November 2008, the ballots of 1,586 Georgians didn’t count because of the law. (They arrived at the polls without a photo ID, cast provisional ballots, and did not return later with the required ID.) Overall, 13.6 million votes were cast in the state during the same period.

I’m mystified how the reporter and editors allowed those two paragraphs to exist within the same article.

Back to the data:

Elections data reviewed by the AJC show that participation among black voters rose by 44 percent from 2006 — before the law was implemented — to 2010. For Hispanics, the increase for the same period was 67 percent. Turnout among whites rose 12 percent.

It was expected that African American turnout would spike in 2008, when Barack Obama became the first person of color to win the presidency. And it did rise to historic highs in Georgia.

Black participation fell in 2010, as it did for all demographic groups. Still, a far greater share of black voters turned out in 2010 than in 2006, showing that Obama was not the only factor driving turnout.

“If you look at the numbers, they clearly show that critics of this law were wrong,” Hans von Spakovsky, a former legal counsel to the Justice Department’s civil rights division who now works for the conservative Heritage Foundation. “Their argument has always been it would depress turnout, but it didn’t happen — quite the opposite.”

Actually, the factors driving turnout aren’t relevant anyway.  What this showed was that legitimate voters who want to participate found voter-ID to be no barrier, even those who don’t usually show up to the polls with or without voter-ID requirements.  That data utterly validates what advocates of voter-ID have always assumed — that legitimate voters of all ethnicities either already have state-issued photo IDs or would have no trouble figuring out how to acquire it, especially since states offer free ID to low-income citizens.  What assumptions did opponents make about minority voters?

Update: I guess we’re all just discovering this article today … but the article actually first appeared a year ago today.  Politico’s hit just snowballed, and even though I usually check dates, I missed this one.  It’s still well worth the effort. In 2012, two months after the article appeared, 77% of all registered black women and 66% of registered black men turned out to vote in the presidential election. In 2010, it was 55% and 44%, respectively, but in 2008 it was 80% and 70%.  The differences between the 2008 and 2012 numbers are within the MoE of exit polling.


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