Opinion: Are voter ID laws racist?

A ballot is shown on a projector for the canvasing board Broward County Supervisor of Elections office in Lauderhill, Fla. The vote was ruled invalid. (AP Photo/Joe Skipper)

Election day may have come and gone, but the topics of voter fraud and voter suppression are still here. At the time of this article, there is much talk about contesting the results of close elections in Florida, Arizona, and Georgia. One of the most common talking points used by the left after they lose an election is that it was due to voter ID laws that prevent minorities from voting (the idea being that minorities vote overwhelmingly Democratic so if they can’t vote, Democrats will lose).

However, modern voter ID laws and other vote integrity measures are far from racist. Instead, they protect one of our most sacred rights – the right to vote. Furthermore, the arguments used by many on the left reflect condescending and down right racist attitudes towards minorities which shouldn’t be tolerated.

First, let us dispense with a myth: voter fraud is not a problem. This is often the first line of defense for opponents of voter ID. After all, if voter fraud is non-existent, then the laws are probably suppressing legal voters. However, there is little evidence for this assertion. Although no nationwide studies have been done on the extent of voter fraud (and this is partly due to the opposition of progressives), the studies that have been done point to several incidences of undeniable vote manipulation. For example, the Heritage Foundation, which keeps a record of election fraud, has found over 1,000 instances of electoral malfeasance that resulted in criminal convictions.

Keep in mind that even though this data base is far from comprehensive, there have been many elections where the outcome was decided by less than 1,000 votes.

Furthermore, a 2012 Pew Center study found that 1 in 8 voter registrations were incorrect. That same study found that 2.75 million people were registered to vote in more than one state!

To combat these problems, some lawmakers have proposed reforms to our electoral system. Legislation requiring ID to vote, limiting the time period people have to cast an early ballot or prohibiting same day voter registration make it less likely mistakes will be made and ensure that political opportunists will be less able to exploit mistakes already made. Another common-sense step taken to reduce voter fraud is to purge the voter rolls of ineligible voters.

However, progressive activists oppose these measures to keep our democracy safe, claiming that the laws are racist and unconstitutional. Perhaps they are concerned about Jim Crow era poll taxes which have since been banned, but someone ought to tell them their concerns are, quite frankly, outdated. In reality, these laws have absolutely no effect on suppressing voter turnout among any group, including minorities. In fact, voter turnout increased in several states after they enacted new election laws. Plaintiffs in the lawsuits to overturn the laws couldn’t find any citizen who lost their right to vote due to the legislation.

Like any good fearmongerer, progressives turned to stereotypes and hypotheticals when evidence failed to support their point. The argument put forth by the left is that minority residents can’t meet the basic requirements for voter laws because of their poverty and desperate situations. They claim blacks and Hispanics can’t go to the DMV to get an ID because they don’t know where it is, and can’t find out about the requirements because they don’t know how to use the internet.

If you felt uncomfortable reading that paragraph, it’s for good reason. This argument makes broad, condescending assumptions about minorities that any reasonable person would call racist. Not all minorities are poor, and those that are have access to the internet and the DMV. In fact, if you visit a minority neighborhood, you’ll find the vast majority of adults carry some form of valid ID already. This, combined with the total lack of empirical evidence for voter suppression, is proof that voter ID laws are not discriminatory.

A republic is only as healthy as its elections are secure, and in the U.S. we must make sure the results recorded are the results the people wanted. Voter ID laws and efforts to purge voter rolls of inaccuracies are necessary steps to ensure the integrity of our elections. Fears that the motives behind these reforms are racist may seem reasonable at first, but without evidence to back them up, any objective citizen ought to ignore them, for these fears do great harm to our country. Not only do they delegitimize our electoral process, they also rely on prejudiced notions about America’s minority population that cannot be tolerated.


Jacob Marie is a contributor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at jacob.marie@uconn.com.