Conservative Think Tank President Says Voter ID Helps Conservatives Win Elections

Former South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint, president of the Heritage Foundation, speaks during the Freedom Summit, Saturday, Jan. 24, 2015, in Des Moines, Iowa. CREDIT: AP PHOTO/CHARLIE NEIBERGALL
Former South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint, president of the Heritage Foundation, speaks during the Freedom Summit, Saturday, Jan. 24, 2015, in Des Moines, Iowa. CREDIT: AP PHOTO/CHARLIE NEIBERGALL

When it comes to voter ID laws, conservative leaders can’t seem to stick to the “voter fraud” script.

Jim DeMint, the president of the conservative Heritage Foundation and former senator from South Carolina, became the latest in a growing list of Republican lawmakers who have admitted the real intention of voter ID laws. In an interview last week, the Tea Party leader asserted that the laws have shifted elections toward conservative candidates because they are blocking Democratic voters.

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Though most conservatives will state publicly that the intention of these laws is to combat purported “voter fraud,” study after study and multiple investigations have found that voter fraud is virtually non-existent. Meanwhile, voter ID laws are proven to keep people — disproportionately minorities, young voters, and low-income people — from the polls.

While DeMint and the Heritage Foundation usually use the “voter fraud” talking point, DeMint went off script with St. Louis radio host Jamie Allman and acknowledged that the laws suppress Democratic voters, according to Right Wing Watch.

“It’s something we’re working on all over the country, because in the states where they do have voter ID laws you’ve seen, actually, elections begin to change towards more conservative candidates,” he said.

Listen to it here:

Allman had asked DeMint about Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s (D) recent decision to extend voting rights to roughly 200,000 former felons by repealing a restriction that was put in place after the Civil War to prevent African Americans from gaining political power. Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump has called the move “crooked politics,” and Virginia Republicans have also criticized the governor’s action and called it a partisan tactic to help Democrats win elections.

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DeMint had a similar response, saying in the interview that McAuliffe’s action was “awfully suspicious, coming into a big election in a state where it’s actually pretty close.” He also claimed that “the left is trying to draw votes from illegals, from voter fraud, a lot of different things, so this kind of fits right in.”

“They’re trying to find another group that they can basically count on to vote their way,” he continued.

Just last month, Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-WI) made a similar admission during a television interview. Asked by a reporter why he thinks Ted Cruz or Trump can 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.”

What Happens To Democracy After You Gut The Voting Rights Act, In One MapThis year marks the first presidential election in 50 years without a functioning Voting Rights Act – and it’s not…thinkprogress.orgDespite the evidence that voter fraud does not exist, the Heritage Foundation has continued to push for the passage of voter ID laws across the country. In 2014, a legal fellow with the group published an article stating that Texas’ then-new photo ID requirement “has done nothing to suppress voter turnout throughout the state.” But multiple non-partisan studies have proven that wrong. Confusion over the law discouraged as many as nine percent of registered voters from going to the polls in the November 2014 elections in the Latino-majority U.S. Congressional District 23, according to a study by Rice University. Altogether, 12.8 percent of the non-voters surveyed in the study said that lack of identification was a reason why they did not vote in the 2014 election.

Thirty-three states will have voter ID laws in place in the 2016 election, the first presidential election since the U.S. Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act in 2013. Voters across the country have already been experiencing the consequences. In DeMint’s home state of South Carolina, voters were given misleading instructions about the state’s requirements, and many were likely disenfranchised as a result. Before the U.S. Department of Justice blocked the state’s voter ID law in 2011, a study found that the law hits South Carolina’s minority precincts the hardest.