For almost two decades, polarization and hyper-partisanship in the United States have ravaged the country with Democrats and Republicans looking like two sub-nations within the fractious American Republic. However, the disagreements have now touched the very foundation of the Republic, with large swats of Republicans believing the 2020 election was fraudulent and Democrats thinking the GOP is trying to reimpose Jim Crow. Election laws are now becoming the newest battlefront in Partisan America.
As with any other partisan battle, both parties have been prone to use exaggerations and fill the airwaves with the narrative that best suits their legislative projects. Donald Trump has used the free time he now enjoys as an ex-president by posting a constant barrage of fraud accusations against the 2020 election, while Democrats have accused Republicans of trying to impose “Jim Crow in the 21st century” with the election reform laws passed in states like Georgia.
Elections are the founding rock of any modern democracy. Well, to be more accurate, trust in the electoral system is the single most important aspects for the maintenance of a democratic system, which is why it is vital to have an understanding of this issue that goes beyond the claims of only one side of the issue. We did the homework and talked to lawmakers and politicians on both sides of the issue, and looked at the research made on it, so you can decide who is right and who is wrong.
Are Voter ID election laws the “new Jim Crow”?
The fight over election laws in America is not new, both parties have fought over issues like voter ID, registration laws, early voting, mail-in ballots, for years. However, they have become more relevant due to the tense and ultimately chaotic fallout of the 2020 presidential election. This year, at least two states have passed legislation reforming their electoral systems: Georgia and Florida.
The former one was, by far, the most publicized and controversial bill of the bunch. Biden and many Democrats directly compared the law with the openly racist and segregationist laws of the Jim Crow south and claimed (falsely) that the bill would “end voting hours early” and many companies were pressured to boycott the Peach State, including the MLB.
One of the sticking issues of the law was the new requirements implemented by the state on the issue of ID requirements to access mail-in absentee ballots, which has become one of the focal points on the ongoing battle over election laws.
In an exclusive interview with El American, Democratic Georgia State Senator Elena Parent (a fierce critic of the bill) said to us that implementing new ID requirements for accessing absentee ballots would only create “unnecessary obstacles placed in front of people” which can “lower turnout”, she also said that asking for ID “doesn’t prevent fraud (…) but it can prevent some people for voting.”
Parent also said that when a state with a history of “state-sponsored discrimination (against Black Georginas)” passes a law that is “making it harder to vote” it would logically bring some “concerning comparisons to the Jim Crow era”.
The issue of ID requirements was also raised by opponents of the latest bill passed in Florida, with state Senator Annette Tadeo saying to El American that Florida’s “requirement to ask for harsher voter ID requirements when we already require voters to show ID is voter suppression.”
This criticism regarding voter ID is not restricted to Georgia’s or Florida’s law, it is part of a national discussion over the issue, with the ACLU saying in a fact sheet on their website that Voter ID laws are discriminatory as “minorities disproportionately lack ID,” they “reduce turnout among minority voters,” and “are enforced in a discriminatory manner.”
Republicans have contested these accusations, with Joe Gruters, a Republican Florida State Senator saying to El American that Florida set a “gold standard” on the way it handled the election in 2020, that the bill includes “common-sense” regulations that will only “ensure the integrity of the system and restore voter confidence” and he hopes that Democrats “go pass the rhetoric and realize there’s no voter suppression.”
Gruters also said that the GOP will continue to work with partners to help out with similar legislation to that passed in Florida, with the objective of making the system “harder to cheat and easier to vote.”
The argument against voter ID then is based on two key aspects: they are discriminatory against minorities and they suppress the turnout of voters who tend to be Democrats. However, are these claims true? Is there evidence that asking for IDs when going to a poll station depresses the turnout of minorities?
Voter ID in Georgia
According to the National Conference on State Legislatures (NCSL), there are 36 states that require some sort of ID verification, with some states of course having stricter regulations than others. One of those is Georgia, which has implemented photo-ID requirements since 2010, if the theory holds and voter ID is a tool employed to suppress the minority vote and empower Republicans, then we should observe such results on play in the Peach State.
The reality, however, is that there has been a significant surge in voter registration for minority voters in Georgia, who according to a Pew Research study have been key for Georgia’s registered voter’s growth since 2016. Currently, minorities (Hispanic, African Americans, and Asian Americans, Native Americans) compose 37% of the total registered voter population in the state, while white voters are 53%, down from 63% in 2008.
Additionally, the surge in black turnout was apparently key for the Democrat’s victory in 2020, according to the Washington Post black voters represented 30% of ballots cast in November. Currently, black voters account for 29.9% of registered voters in Georgia, according to the data shown by the Secretary of State and they compose 32.6% of the total population of the state, based on the data obtained by the Census Bureau.
When you compare the turnout of the black voting bloc in 2020 with 2012, the trend also shows there has been little impact on the turnout of minorities in general elections. While in 2020 black voters were almost 30% of the voters, in 2012 the number remained pretty much the same (29.8%) according to the data presented by the state of Georgia, if voter ID wanted to depress black turnout then it did a lousy job.
So in summary, African Americans cast almost a third of the ballots in 2012 and 2020, there has not been a trend showing a significant decrease in the turnout of African Americans relative to the total voting population and there has been a substantial increase in minority registration in the Peach State.
Voter ID laws on a national level
Although these facts only apply to Georgia, there was a study conducted by the National Bureau of Economic Research, an institution known for being the authoritative source of when recessions begin and end in the U.S, that have determined voter ID laws “have no negative effect on registration or turnout, overall or for any group defined by race, gender, age or party affiliation”.
Even the study quoted by the ACLU to validate the narrative that voter ID decreases turnout (by just 1-2% points), accepted that the general research on the subject offers mixed results in regards to the effect of voter ID laws on turnout, with 5 of the 10 studies showing no statistical significance and 4 saying there was some turnout decrease.
Additionally, that report also concludes that the 10 studies it reviewed to draft their report show that a vast majority of Americans have an ID that would satisfy the requirements set by law. Most of those studies showing that more than 80% of African Americans currently possess an ID that would be acceptable for voting purposes.
Even a study that was widely shared by media outlets like The Washington Post as the definitive proof that Voter ID laws effectively suppress the turnout of minorities was put under heavy fire after a follow-up study contested its results. Vox, a firmly liberal media outlet, conceded that “ultimately, Voter ID laws may not have a strong enough effect on voter turnout.”
If voter ID laws were drafted with the aim of suppressing the minority vote and handing elections to the GOP, then they have been utterly ineffective. Democrats have won presidential and senatorial elections in Georgia and Arizona, states with strict ID laws, just to name one example.
Furthermore, asking for an ID is not something exclusive to America: Norway does it, France does it, Italy does it, Switzerland does it, even Canada, Sweden, and Germany ask for some kind of ID to vote. Australia does not require it if voting in person but does require it to vote by mail. It is a common practice around the world.
The research made by authoritative sources and the data available to the public makes it very clear: voter ID laws do not appear to have a significant effect on voter turnout. Hence, it is very hard to argue that requesting for an ID to vote is part of an “ongoing strategy to roll back decades of progress on voting rights” or that they “deprive many voters of their right to vote” and “reduce participation” as the ACLU claims.
Comparing voter ID regulations with the darkest practices of Jim Crow, a shameful era in American history, is not only inflammatory and unfair but also just factually wrong.