NewsOK Editorial Uses North Carolina Study To Weakly Defend Voter ID Laws

Voter ID laws are a contentious issue throughout the US. Supporters of the laws insist that there is a valid interest in protecting elections from fraud, while opponents of the laws claim that it disenfranchises some at-risk voters. What supporters of the laws neglect to show is exactly what harm is being prevented with these laws. Since they cannot point to an actual problem the law addresses, they have instead taken upon themselves to marginalize the complaints raised by opponents. This marginalization comes in two facets, direct attacks on the people complaining and dismissing their concerns. In an editorial in NewsOK, they manage to do both.

In this editorial, NewsOK attempts to use a study from North Carolina as evidence that Voter ID laws would not negatively impact voters. However, they instead resort to attacks on opponents and dismissing evidence of potential harm.

Passage of voter identification laws in Oklahoma and elsewhere prompted an outcry from liberal partisans. Critics claimed the laws would somehow “rob” legitimate voters, mostly Democrats, of the right to cast a ballot. Those assertions were always dubious. In the modern world, who doesn’t have a photo ID?

As you can see, this editorial has completely disregarded the complaints before even getting to the actual message of the editorial. This opening statement paints the rest of the editorial in a very negative light.

NewsOK then brings up the actual point of the editorial.

The fact that opponents’ claims are overblown is becoming undeniable. Nate Cohn, writing in the liberal New Republic, notes, “Many of the registered voters without a photo ID just aren’t voting and 40 percent of them are probably voting Republican.” Voter ID laws, he declares, have “comparatively modest electoral consequences.”

Cohn bases his conclusion on an analysis conducted by the secretary of state in North Carolina, where a voter ID law is being considered.

Ok. So there is a study that vindicates Voter ID laws. I am glad that people are actually studying this. I am very interested to hear how this study has shown Voter ID laws to have “comparatively modest electoral consequences.”

The review found that 318,643 North Carolinians who were registered to vote didn’t have a state-issued photo ID. Of that total, 138,425 participated in the 2012 general election. In other words, the voting rate among those without state-issued IDs was already much lower than the general population. That’s not surprising. To live without a photo ID means a person is practically living off the grid. That’s not a recipe for active civic engagement.

Oh. I see. Because only 138,425 will be potentially impacted by an ID requirement to vote, that means there will not be a substantial negative impact on the voters in North Carolina or anywhere else these laws have been passed. But other people see it differently. Other people see a potential 138, 425 people who may not be able to vote in 2014 if a voter ID law goes into effect.

An article at Mother Jones concludes that this data is more alarming and potentially damaging than supporters would have you believe.

The bill’s new provisions make it so that, with very few exceptions, a voter needs a valid in-state DMV-issued driver’s license or non-driver’s ID card, a US Military ID card, a veteran’s ID card or a US passport. According to an April 2013 analysis (pdf) of state Board of Elections data by Democracy North Carolina, 34 percent of the state’s registered black voters, the overwhelming majority of whom vote Democrat, do not have state-issued photo ID. The same study found that 55 percent of North Carolina Democrats don’t have state-issued photo ID. Only 21 percent of Republicans have the same problem.

As you see, the potential impact is weighted heavily toward Democratic voters than it is against Republican voters. Yet, supporters continue to claim that such laws will not unfairly tilt future elections. Sadly, this law passed both houses of the North Carolina Legislature. NC Governor McCrory is expected to sign it into law.

But since this is an Oklahoma based editorial meant to raise support for Oklahoma’s Voter ID law, how has Oklahoma been impacted by its law? While the data isn’t quite as detailed as the North Carolina Study, we can make certain assumptions based on votes cast in the 2012 election compared to the 2008 Presidential election.

In 2008, 1,462,661 people cast a vote for President in Oklahoma. Of those, 960,165 cast their vote for Republican Candidate John McCain and 502,496 cast their vote for Democratic Candidate Barack Obama. In 2012, 1,334,872 people cast a vote for President. Of those, 891,325 cast their vote for Republican Candidate Mitt Romney and 443,547 cast their vote for Democratic Candidate Barack Obama. While both sides lost voters from the previous election, the Democratic side lost a proportionally higher number of voters. There was an 11.7% drop in Democratic voters vs a 7% drop for Republicans. While you may argue that Republicans lost more voters total from election to election, their rate of change had an overall lower impact on the election results than the rate of change for Democratic voters.

But again, all this ignores the key complaint about Voter ID laws. There is no evidence of any significant fraud that these laws would prevent. Of all the known cases of election fraud, almost none are cases of a someone impersonating a registered voter. Almost all cases of election fraud are cases of insider fraud, poll workers or those meant to count votes. Voter ID laws will do nothing to stop that.

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