Q&A of the Day – Voter turnout in states with photo ID Part 2


Q&A of the Day – Voter turnout in states with photo ID Part 2

Bottom Line: 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 2006 study by the Brennen Center of Justice found that 11% of adults in the US didn’t have a government issued photo ID. This included 25% of Black adults, 16% of Hispanics and 8% of Whites. But that was then and actually based on that study many states made concentered efforts to address this issue. This included offering free IDs and even free rides to obtain them for those who may lack resources. This addressed the concern that the photo ID worked as a form of “poll tax”. The result is that as of 2016 a subsequent 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. So, to the question about whether obtaining a photo ID is a form of suppression?

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. Consider that from the 2020 Election cycle, voter turnout ranged from 55% in Oklahoma to 80% in Minnesota. With only around three percent lacking ID, explanations involving voter ID can’t come close to explaining variances in voter turnout. Consider – these were the states with the strictest voter ID laws in the country last November & here’s where the ranked in voter turnout nationally:

  • Indiana - 42nd
  • Kansas - 32nd
  • Mississippi - 45th
  • North Carolina - 17th
  • Tennessee - 44th
  • Virginia - 13th
  • Wisconsin - 4th

None of the states with the strictest ID’s ranked last, and in fact, Mississippi which has the highest percentage of Black citizens of any state in the country had turnout which was 6% higher than the last state – well outside of the margin of error for those lacking photo ID. 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. All of your bottom states for turnout were not – Oklahoma, Arkansas, Hawaii, West Virginia.

There are two sides to stories and one side to facts. There’s no evidence that even in the states with the strictest photo ID laws, there’s tangible voter suppression.

Photo Credit: Getty Images


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