“Voter suppression laws are already deciding elections,” trumpeted an editorial headline in The Washington Post in the wake of the midterm elections earlier this month. Catherine Rampell, an editorial writer for the Post, argued in the piece that recently enacted voter ID laws and changes to early voting rules in some states may have cost Democrats key U.S. Senate races and possibly even a gubernatorial race.
Rampell is wrong. It was voters – not voter ID or early voting rule changes – that cost Democrats control of the U.S. Senate and some gubernatorial races.
Voter ID is a favored boogeyman of liberals when it comes to explaining elections and electoral outcomes. Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder didn’t hold back in expressing his public contempt of voter ID laws while serving in the Obama Administration. He was quoted by Jeffery Toobin in a piece for The New Yorker in February of 2014 calling the cost of getting voter ID documents “poll taxes.” Toobin’s piece outlined the extensive legal battle Holder waged against voter ID laws using the power of the federal Department of Justice.
Echoing Holder’s reference to voter ID laws as a poll tax, Rampell flatly claims, “The days of Jim Crow are officially over, but poll-tax equivalents are newly thriving, through restrictive voter registration and ID requirements, shorter poll hours and various other restrictions and red tape that cost Americans time and money if they wish to cast a ballot.” This “[v]oter suppression,” she argues, “may have changed the outcomes of some of the closest races last week.”
Just paragraphs later though, she contradicts herself, admitting, “It’s still early to definitively quantify the effects that these laws had on national turnout or on the outcomes of individual races.”
Contrary to allegations that voter ID laws amount to a poll tax because identification cards cost money, many states with voter ID laws make the identification available for free to anyone who cannot afford it. In Wisconsin, where the state’s voter ID law was recently upheld by the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals only to be briefly and temporarily suspended by the U.S. Supreme Court for the midterm election, the state’s Division of Motor Vehicles website explains how one may obtained a free state-issued photo ID card for voting purposes. State law also allows for certain non-government issued forms of photo ID to suffice as a valid voter ID card on election …read more