On Tuesday, Wisconsin held its first presidential election since the state’s new voter ID law took effect. It didn’t go smoothly, with students facing long lines and residents struggling to get the ID cards needed to vote.
The voter ID bill signed into law by Republican Gov. Scott Walker is a solution in search of a problem, as study after study shows voter fraud isn’t a real issue in Wisconsin or elsewhere. But as another recent paper indicates, voter ID laws do have one benefit, at least for Republicans — suppressing reliably Democratic votes.
During an interview with a local TV station yesterday, Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-WI) admitted as much. Asked by a reporter why he thinks Ted Cruz or Donald 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.”
There’s truth to Grothman’s statement, even if he didn’t mean to be so direct about it. The aforementioned paper shows that by making it more difficult for minorities to vote, voter ID benefits Republicans.
“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, researchers from the University of California, San Diego write.
Even worse for the left is the impact on such laws on who turns out.
“For strong liberals the estimated drop in turnout in strict photo identification states is an alarming 7.9 percentage points,” researchers found. “By contrast, strong conservatives actually vote at a slightly higher rate — 4.8 points — in strict ID states, all else equal.”
Democrat John Kerry narrowly beat incumbent Republican George W. Bush in Wisconsin in 2004. In the two cycles since, Barack Obama has comfortably carried the state. A recent Marquette University poll of this year’s race shows Wisconsin again leaning blue, with the winner of Tuesday’s Democratic primary, Bernie Sanders, leading Republican winner Ted Cruz by 13 points.
Grothman made similar comments about Wisconsin’s voter ID back when he was a state senator in 2012, explaining that “insofar as there are inappropriate things, people who vote inappropriately are more likely to vote Democrat.” A legal challenged blocked the law from being implemented in time for that year’s presidential elections, meaning this year’s cycle is the first with voter ID on the books.
There are about 300,000 people in Wisconsin who do not have photo identification. Turnout is always key in Wisconsin elections, and on Tuesday, slightly more Republicans voted in the presidential primary than Democrats — 1.1 million to 1 million, respectively.