Photo ID rules prompt 'voter suppression' scare

Photo ID rules prompt 'voter suppression' scare

January 15th, 2012 in Opinion Free Press

Lawmakers in Tennessee have come under fire for enacting a law that requires voters to show valid photo identification at polling places. The worthwhile goal of the law is to prevent fraudulent voting, but some critics claim that its true purpose is to suppress turnout among minority voters.

So let's look at the history of similar measures elsewhere, and their effect on minorities.

What happened after Georgia and Indiana enacted laws requiring voters to present photo ID at polling places? Did those laws suppress turnout among minority voters?


In Georgia, turnout among registered black voters in the 2006 midterm elections was 42.9 percent. By the 2010 midterm -- when Georgia had a photo ID law in effect -- black voter turnout had risen to 50.4 percent. That's nearly an 8 percent increase! Surely no one thinks that proves "voter suppression."

Turnout by black voters also rose in Indiana following enactment of a photo ID law.

There can be many reasons for lower voter turnout one year and higher turnout another. But the hysterical predictions of voter suppression from photo ID laws do not appear to have panned out in Georgia and Indiana, and there is little reason to think those predictions will prove true in Tennessee, either.

Meanwhile, courts have found little evidence that minorities or others were denied their right to vote because of photo ID laws.

And for all the noise made by Democrat opponents of the laws, the American public is solidly behind the principle of making sure that a person who casts a ballot is who he claims to be.

Repeated surveys have shown strong public support, including a recent Rasmussen Reports poll that found 70 percent of likely voters believe people should have to show photo identification before voting. Only 22 percent said there should be no such requirement. At least one other poll has shown greater than 80 percent support for photo ID laws.

In short, critics of those measures -- including the new Tennessee law -- have neither the facts nor the public on their side.

What they do, unfortunately, have on their side is the Obama administration, which is trying to block states from enforcing voter ID laws, disgustingly likening such commonsense measures to racist Jim Crow laws.

It's unclear how far the Obama administration will go in trying to bar states from protecting the integrity of the ballot box. But the states are right to promote clean elections by requiring photo ID.

Every fraudulent ballot negates a legitimate vote and undermines public confidence in the soundness and fairness of the election process. Ironically, the failure to protect that process from fraud may in itself actually reduce voter turnout. A legitimate voter may not see the point of voting if the rules are so lax that he knows his ballot may be canceled out by a fraudulent voter.

The Obama administration is wrong to oppose sensible efforts to protect the ballot box. And the states' ability to fight voter fraud should be upheld -- in court if necessary.