Q&A – Voter Turnout In States With Photo ID


Today’s entry: What is the argument made by those who claim requiring a photo ID is voter suppression, and in your judgment is it valid?

Bottom Line: Following various controversies stemming from the 2020 election cycle, numerous states have taken up election related integrity measures. Two states have already passed new laws strengthening election integrity. Iowa and Georgia.

Notably even in Florida, despite having had our smoothest election cycle in decades, it was still the top issue cited for reform by Floridians heading into this year’s state session. Election integrity is clearly on the minds of Americans and it’s needed. According to Harvard’s Election Integrity Project, the United States ranks 37th out of 38 countries which engage in democratic elections. The United States ranks just below Vanuatu and just above Albania. That’s how awful our voting systems are in the United States.

So, to first address the premise of your question, efforts to improve the integrity of elections within the United States are valid and desperately needed. Before diving into the specifics of the photo ID requirements, let's look at what changed with Georgia’s new law. First, they will required a voter ID for absentee ballots. Also, runoff elections will be held 4 weeks after general election as opposed to nine weeks later. And, elections oversight will be conducted by a five-person board established by the state legislature rather than the Secretary of State.

Why is it that voter ID should be required in person but not for absentee ballots? That’s the counter-argument to this new law. But your question specifically asked about the arguments against voter ID and whether the argument that they suppress turnout are valid.

The argument against voter ID requirements is simple. Not everyone has a photo ID, disproportionately those who don’t are minorities, thus the requirement suppresses minority turnout. This is true. A 2016 a study by the American National Election Studies cooperative found that only 3.3% of eligible adults lacked an ID. That’s an improvement of 70% within a decade. Given the arc of progress and the additional five years since that study, it’s possible, even likely that the number is now lower than the 3.3% level.

With free ID’s and even free rides to obtain them available for those who lack resources, the argument lacks validity in my view. What’s more is that when you review voter turnout by states – comparing states with photo ID requirements with those that don’t, the narrative doesn’t wash.

None of the states with the strictest ID’s ranked last. Instead, what we commonly see drive turnout is the perception of competitiveness with top-of-the ticket races. Your top four states for turnout were all swing states, Minnesota, Colorado, Maine and Wisconsin. There’s no evidence that even in the states with the strictest photo ID laws, there’s tangible voter suppression.

Each day I feature a listener question sent by one of these methods.

Email: brianmudd@iheartmedia.com

Parler & Twitter: @brianmuddradio

Photo by: Scott Olson/Getty Images


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