Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam gestures as he prepares to deliver his State of the Commonwealth address before a joint session of the Virginia Assembly at the state Capitol in Richmond, Va., Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
Well, it looks like residents of Virginia will no longer have to show their IDs when they show up to vote. Governor Ralph Northam was recently the subject of harsh criticism from the right and glowing praise from the left after he signed a bill that repeals the state’s voter ID laws.
“Voting is a fundamental right, and these new laws strengthen our democracy by making it easier to cast a ballot, not harder,” Northam said in a statement released on Sunday.
The Governor’s statement also echoed the usual progressive argument against voter ID laws. “Voter ID laws disenfranchise individuals who may not have access to photo identification, and disproportionately impact low-income individuals, racial and ethnic minorities, the elderly, and individuals with disabilities,” he asserted.
The notion that voter ID laws unfairly restrict the ability of minority Americans to vote is one of the most common refrains one can hear on the left. They insist that in certain areas, black and Hispanic Americans – especially those who are elderly – have trouble obtaining a state ID or driver’s license. Because of this, they argue, voter ID measures result in widespread voter suppression.
On the other hand, conservatives typically advocate for voter ID laws in order to prevent voter fraud. Right-leaning politicians and media pundits insist that these laws are necessary to prevent non-citizens from casting votes and influencing elections. They believe that not requiring identification at the polls will provide more opportunities for bad actors to influence our elections by subverting our electoral processes.
The reality is that both sides are wrong.
Last year, Harvard Business School conducted a study analyzing voter turnout in the United States over an eight-year period. The researchers look at how voter ID laws affect the ability of minority Americans to turn out at the polls and cast their votes. They also investigated the rate at which voter fraud was committed in states that have voter ID measures.
Surprisingly, the results of the study did not support either side’s arguments on the issue. Let’s deal with the race issue first. The study revealed that “Strict ID laws have no significant negative effect on registration or turnout, overall or for any subgroup defined by age, gender, race, or party affiliation.”
Researchers also found that voter ID laws “do not decrease the participation of ethnic minorities relative to whites.” Well, it looks like the left’s whole “voter suppression” idea has gone out the window. Of course, most people were never buying this argument in the first place. It’s probably the reason why the majority of Americans favor voter ID laws. But it wasn’t just the left’s race-baiting claims that were debunked.
The study also revealed that requiring voters to show ID at the polls does not effectively curtail voter fraud. After the researchers investigated documented cases of voter fraud in states with voter ID measures, they found that these laws do not prevent certain people from defrauding the electoral system.
Again, this might seem surprising, but a closer look reveals why this is the case. Remember all of those stories back in the 2018 midterm elections? Immigrants – both legal and illegal – were being allowed to vote without showing their ID despite the laws on the books.
Project Veritas found that in Texas, poll workers in cities like Austin and Dallas were allowing non-citizens to vote. In one instance, they caught a woman on camera brazenly telling an undercover reporter that her boyfriend could come in and vote even though he was an immigrant.
So what does this mean?
Put simply, it means that both sides of this issue need to re-evaluate their arguments. Now, we know that the left won’t take another look at what they’re asserting – they never really cared about disenfranchised minority voters in the first place. Their caterwauling over the issue was just another way for them to cast Republicans as drooling bigots.
But what about the conservative side? Many on the right have long believed that voter ID laws were the key to prevent voter fraud. Despite the fact that instances in which individuals have defrauded the electoral system are rare, it is still important to preserve the integrity of our elections.
For those who are concerned about voter fraud, it presents an opportunity. Requiring ID at the polls is clearly not the way to tamp down on this crime. Now that we know this, we can look at other methods that might prove more effective.
However, this does raise an important question: Are we going to act on this information and seek solutions? Or will we just keep engaging in a neverending pissing contest with the left over the issue?
Let me know what you think in the comments below!
Follow me on Twitter: @JeffOnTheRight