Commentary: Voter-ID Study Confirms What We Knew All Along

New research supports what Democratic activists have been saying for months now: Voter-ID laws disproportionately hurt minorities and young people.

Posted: 03/13/2013 02:02 PM EDT
Commentary: Voter-ID Study Confirms What We Knew All Along

Before Barack Obama was re-elected in November, activists, lawyers, politicians and others fought for months in states around the country about a new wave of voter-ID laws. From Texas to Pennsylvania, the old ways of voting were under fire from conservatives arguing that stringent new laws requiring ID checks to vote were necessary to prevent voter fraud. Voter fraud is exceedingly rare, of course, but that didn’t stop the right-wing zealots.

Obama is back in the White House, but conservatives are still pushing for voter-ID laws in multiple places. So adamant are they, in fact, that it raises this question: Why might it be that conservatives were, and continue to be, so eager to stop the rare crime of voter fraud with strict new laws? Why aren’t liberals, who certainly have a stake in protecting the polls against voter fraud, equally as interested in helping create voter-ID laws? Well, it’s not because liberals are for voter fraud, but rather that they were worried about the innocent and legal voters who voter-ID laws might hinder: Blacks, Latinos and young people — groups, it should be noted, that are known to frequently support Democrats.

Today, a new study shows that liberal concerns about the prejudices inherent in voter-ID laws are well founded.

Research from the University of Chicago’s Cathy J. Cohen and Washington University in St. Louis’ Jon C. Rogowski, published early in Politico, shows that, indeed, voter-ID laws injure minorities and young people at hugely disproportionate rates. Reports Politico’s Emily Schultheis:

According to the study, previewed before its release to Politico, significantly more minority youths age 18-29 were asked to show identification than white youth: 72.9 percent of Black youth were asked for ID, compared with 60.8 percent of Latino youth and 50.8 percent of white youth.

Even in states where there are no voter-ID laws on the books, 65.5 percent of Black youth were asked to show ID at the polls, compared with 55.3 percent of Latino youth and 42.8 percent of white youth.

To better put this kind of polling prejudice in context, here is how Blacks, Latinos and young people voted in last year’s presidential election: 93 percent of Blacks, 71 percent of Latinos, and 60 percent of people age 18 to 29 voted for Obama. In other words, the very groups that support the left by huge amounts are the very same groups conservative voter-ID efforts stymie.

This is not a mistake, and it’s got the potential to get worse, as Politico notes: “This year, 10 states have either already considered new voter-ID measures or are planning to take up the issue in an upcoming legislative session.”

If these efforts pass, it’s going to be hugely important to make certain that minorities and young people are supplied with the IDs expected of them before the next election. Otherwise we’re headed for a kind of Poll Tax 2.0.

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.

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