According to Bill O’Reilly, all the African Americans he knows have photo IDs, so there’s no reason to worry about voter ID laws disenfranchising black voters.
O’Reilly made that flawed argument during a discussion of cuts to Ohio’s early voting on Tuesday night’s O’Reilly Factor. Though the disproportionate impact voter ID laws have on minority voters is well documented, O’Reilly said that when he hears people talk about voter suppression, “I’m saying to myself, every African American I know has an ID.”
O’Reilly’s black friends (whatever the sample size) might have IDs, but millions of other African Americans living in the United States do not. According to a Project Vote study from last year, 13 percent of the country’s blacks lack photo IDs, compared to 10 percent of Latinos and five percent of whites. (Other studies have found that as many as one-quarter of African Americans don’t have a photo ID.) Lower-income people and young adults are less likely than other groups to have them.
And what do all those groups have in common? They tend to vote for Democrats. A study published earlier this year by researchers at the University of California, San Diego found that “Democratic turnout drops by an estimated 8.8 percentage points in general elections when strict photo identification laws are in place,” compared to just 3.6 percentage points for Republicans.
Asked about the impact that could have on an election, the paper’s lead researcher, UCSD political science professor Zoltan Hajnal, told ThinkProgress, “It’s fair to say that given the number of states that have these laws, there’s a very real possibility that in a very tight election, it could sway the contest one way or another.”
During Tuesday night’s segment, O’Reilly expressed concern that making voting easy might lead to fraud. Discussing Ohio’s cuts to early voting, he said, “The reason, I believe, is because you can’t check these people that fast. So somebody can come in with fraudulent documentation the day of or the week and the state can’t check it.”
Actually, as ThinkProgress has previously detailed, instances of voter fraud are about as common as unicorns. Study after study — including investigations led by officials who support voter ID — have shown it barely exists. In fact, in Crawford v. Marion County Election Board — the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2008 decision turning away a challenge to Indiana’s voter ID law — justices were only able to cite a single instance of in-person voter fraud during the last 140 years. A Wisconsin study study analyzing the state’s 2004 election found just seven cases of fraud among the three million votes cast, including exactly zero that would’ve been prevented by a voter ID law. A similar study in Iowa conducted two years ago found zero instances of in-person fraud.
In short, voter ID is a solution in search of problem. So why do Republicans want laws of that sort? A few months ago, Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-WI) revealed voter ID proponents’ true motives during a local TV interview. Asked by a reporter why he thinks Donald Trump could become the first Republican to carry Wisconsin in a presidential election since 1984, Grothman said, “Now we have photo ID, and I think photo ID is gonna make a little bit of a difference.”