New Research Continues To Diminish The Right-Wing Media's Voter ID Argument

New research is adding to the growing body of evidence that voter ID laws not only suppress the right to vote, but that they disproportionately target minority voters. The study is the latest in a series of reports that have been ignored by the right-wing media as they continue to support the laws as a solution to a largely non-existent voter fraud problem.

The right-wing media has routinely ignored or downplayed the evidence that voter ID laws disenfranchise eligible voters. Recently, Fox News hosted conservative columnist John Fund to promote the laws. During the segment, Fund downplayed the effect they could have on restricting voting rights, claiming there is “no chance that someone will be denied the right to vote because they don't have an ID in Pennsylvania.” Fox has attacked the Department of Justice for investigating discrimination in voter ID laws. Fox & Friends host Steve Doocy even highlighted a flawed report that purported to claim that minorities would be protected by voter ID laws. But contrary to the right-wing media's portrayal of the laws, evidence continues to mount showing that the laws would not only suppress the right to vote, they would in fact primarily target minority voters.   

A September 12 Associated Press piece featured evidence from a study conducted by Cathy Cohen of the University of Chicago and Jon Rogowski of Washington University in St. Louis, which found that as a result of new voter ID laws, “as many as 700,000 minority voters under 30 may be unable to cast a ballot in November.” The study pointed to more stringent laws passed by 17 states in the past election cycle that would make it more difficult to vote without government issued identification.

The federal government has objected to many of these laws in swing states like Florida, Pennsylvania, and Ohio, arguing that these laws suppress the vote of the young, minority, and elderly by making it more difficult to cast their ballot than has been the case in the past. The government's case is backed up by the new study, which found that “turnout this year by young people of color ages 18-29 could fall by somewhere between 538,000 to 696,000 in states with photo ID laws.”

They explain that voter ID laws affect minorities disproportionally compared to their white counterparts. Nine percent of Caucasians do not have government-issued ID, compared with 25 percent of African Americans and 16 percent of Hispanics. The AP article went on to cite the research of a non-partisan group that is tasked with examining the political participation of young African-Americans to show the estimated impact of photo ID laws on specific voting blocs:

The analysis by Cohen and Rogowski was released this week by the Chicago-based Black Youth Project, a nonpartisan effort launched in 2004 to examine the political participation of African-Americans aged 15 to 25. It estimated that new photo requirements potentially could turn away:

-- 170,000 to 475,000 young black voters.

-- 68,000 to 250,000 young Hispanic voters.

-- 13,000 to 46,000 young Asian-American voters.

-- 1,700 to 6,400 young Native American voters.

-- 700 to 2,700 young Pacific Islander voters.

This data mirrors evidence provided by the Department of Justice who found that minority registered voters in South Carolina are “nearly 20% more likely to lack DMV- issued ID than white registered voters” and that "[n]on-white voters were therefore disproportionately represented, to a significant degree, in the group of registered voters who, under the proposed law, would be rendered ineligible to go to the polls and participate in the election."

Although minority voters are specifically targeted, voter ID laws are estimated to restrict voting rights for millions of eligible voters across demographic lines. New York University's Brennan Center for Justice issued a report estimating that in the five states that will be effected by photo ID laws in the 2012 election, nearly 29 million citizens will be of voting age and “3.2 million (11 percent) of those potential voters do not have state-issued photo ID.” Additionally, in Pennsylvania, more than 700,000 registered voters could be disenfranchised by voter ID laws. 

This evidence is particularly troubling because voter ID laws touted by the right-wing media aim to address a problem that is largely non-existent. In fact, the Supreme Court plurality in Crawford v. Marion County Election Board did not find widespread in-person voter fraud, the type of fraud that voter ID laws are meant to address. Rather, it found only “scattered instances” of such fraud. Also, a report by the Justice Department pointed out that there are very few prosecutions for illegally casting ballots. They found that from October 2002 through September 2005, the DOJ charged only 95 people with “election fraud” and convicted just 55.