Justice

STUDY: In 2008, Voter ID Laws Blocked 1200 Votes in Two States Alone

Just in time for the Texas voter ID law’s court date today, the Associated Press has released a study finding that hundreds of legitimate votes have been rejected due to strict voter ID laws:

As more states put in place strict voter ID rules, an AP review of temporary ballots from Indiana and Georgia, which first adopted the most stringent standards, found that more than 1,200 such votes were tossed during the 2008 general election.

During sparsely attended primaries this year in Georgia, Indiana and Tennessee, the states implementing the toughest laws, hundreds more ballots were blocked.

The numbers suggest that the legitimate votes rejected by the laws are far more numerous than are the cases of fraud that advocates of the rules say they are trying to prevent. Thousands more votes could be in jeopardy for this November, when more states with larger populations are looking to have similar rules in place.

Voter ID’s supporters justify them by claiming they are necessary to prevent voter fraud at the polls, but such fraud is so rare that someone is more likely to be struck by lightning than commit voter fraud. One study, for example, found just seven examples of voter fraud out of the three million votes cast in Wisconsin during the 2004 election, a fraud rate of 0.0002 percent. Similarly, the Supreme Court could only identify one example of in-person voter fraud in the past 143 years in a decision approving Indiana’s ID law in 2008. Even a Heritage Foundation expert arguing for voter suppression laws could not cite a single example of voter fraud during a TV interview on the subject. And as a 2007 report by the Brennan Center for Justice found, many allegations of individual voter fraud can be chalked up to clerical errors like typos in names or addresses.

So voter ID laws target no legitimate problem, but they are effective in skewing the electorate rightward. Voter ID laws disproportionately affect young, poor and minority communities. Indeed, in 2005, the sponsor of the Georgia law, Rep. Sue Burmeister (R-Augusta), defended the discriminatory effect, saying if black people in her district “are not paid to vote, they don’t go to the polls,” and that if fewer blacks vote as a result of the new law, then they were blocked from casting fraudulent ballots.

More than two dozen states have some form of a voter ID law, with 11 passing new rules over the past two years.