Voter laws and their effect on minorities
Voter ID law has always been a contentious topic between Democrats and Republicans, especially in Texas. The argument focuses on the best way to go about protecting the integrity of our voting system while making the process easily accessible to our citizens. Republicans push stricter voter ID laws, as they believe that protecting the integrity of our elections to be of the utmost priority. Democrats argue that more restrictive laws have discriminatory effects on certain individuals, which lowers voter turnout, and in turn harms the democratic process. The culmination of this tension occurred in 2011 when a Republican-dominated legislature passed SB 14. This law requires voters to display a certain form of identification before voting, Such as: driver’s license, personal identification card, United States military identification card, United States citizenship certificate that contains a photograph, United States passport, or a license to carry a concealed handgun (yes actually). This piece looks to analyze data from 1996–2014 to determine if SB 14 has discriminatory effects on minorities.
Starting with the Republican’s claim that we need stricter voting laws to protect the integrity of our elections. The graph below is the instances of alleged voter fraud committed in Texas elections since 2002.
It follows from the previously stated argument that if stricter laws are needed, then voter fraud must be a serious problem. However, the data suggests this is not the case. As shown from the graph, Texas had 104 instances of alleged election fraud since 2002, with 37 of the instances being in-person voter fraud, which SB 14 was drafted to reduce. In 2012 Texas had 13,646,226 registered voters, making the instances of voter fraud ~ .0000027%. This low of a percentage might lead some to infer that this low percent is a result of legislation, which is not the case. We can see this is not the case when changing the scope to the national level. From 2000–2012 there have been 2,068 alleged cases of voter fraud in the United States. Out of those, 633 of the instances were in person voter fraud and once divided by the 146 million registered voters we come to an instance rate of .0000045%. Proving that the low percentage is not a result of Texas’ legislation. With all the news coverage on ‘voter fraud,’ it is easy to think it must be a rampant problem. Once data on the matter has been presented we can conclude that this is not the case.
This leads us to a possible counter argument; “even one instance of voter fraud is too many, as it undermines the legitimacy of our democratic process.” While the argument passes the sniff-test, it ignores key aspects of what we seek to provide to our citizens in an election. Ensuring this reality would mean passing extensive legislation and creating additional hoops for voters to jump through, which runs the risk of hurting voter turnout. While we have an obligation to the integrity of our elections we certainly have an obligation to our democratic ideals of ensuring as many people as possible can vote. Though it is speculative, creating additional laws could drive down voter turnout and hurt the overall quality of our electorate body.
Next, I will review voter turnout among different ethnicities from 2008–2014 to determine if SB 14 has had an effect on minorities.
After comparing presidential years and midterm years, there are a few things to note. Each year there is a growing amount of Hispanics who are registered and didn’t vote. Another study, conducted by the Washington post, looked at the ten states that require voters to present a photo ID that furthers the evidence found in Texas.
Based on the data it seems there is correlation between the passage of SB 14 and decrease level of Hispanic voting, why is this the case? The theorized main reason why voter ID laws hurt minorities, and specifically Hispanics, harder than whites is that whites are more likely to possess a drivers license than the Hispanics/minorities. This is shown from In Orange County, Calif., where about 92 percent of white voters had driver’s licenses, compared with only 84 percent of Latino voters and 81 percent of “other” voters. A 2005 study of Wisconsin similarly found that while about 80 percent of white residents had licenses, only about half of African-American and Hispanic residents had licenses. Minorities are more likely to be poor and live in urban areas. Meaning if you can’t afford a car or have accesses to good public transportation, you’re not going to have a drivers license. Another reason is the inability to pay fines, which in turn leads to the suspension or revocation of their license. And if you don’t have a license you’re likely not going to be voting.
Through this piece, I have shown that strict voter laws do not accomplish their intended goal and harm minorities. Voter fraud is such an uncommon occurrence that passing additional legislation to curb it at the expense of other citizens does not seem pragmatic. Upon examining Whites and Blacks over the years, we do not see any significant changes to any of the columns. While when we see that it adversely effects Hispanics in multiple ways. In conclusion, it seems that even a minor effect on Hispanics would be enough for courts to find that SB 14 places undue burden on Hispanics and other minorities.
“Who Can Vote? — A News21 2012 National Project”. Votingrights.news21.com. N.p., 2017. Web. 7 Mar. 2017.
“Voting Hotreport”. Thedataweb.rm.census.gov. N.p., 2017. Web. 4 Apr. 2017.
Tribune, The. “Record 15 Million Texans Registered To Vote”. The Texas Tribune. N.p., 2017. Web. 4 Apr. 2017.
“Texas’ Previously Overruled Racist Voter Restriction SB14 May Get Another Go W/Trump Picks”. Daily Kos. N.p., 2017. Web. 4 Apr. 2017.
Graphs comprised of data from: “Texas Secretary Of State”. Sos.state.tx.us. N.p., 2017. Web. 4 Apr. 2017.
Council, State. “TLO”. Capitol.state.tx.us. N.p., 2017. Web. 13 Mar. 2017.
Hajnal, Zoltan et al. “Analysis | Do Voter Identification Laws Suppress Minority Voting? Yes. We Did The Research.”. Washington Post. N.p., 2017. Web. 1 May 2017.
Wickman, Forrest. “Why Do Many Minorities Not Have Valid ID To Show At The Polls?”. Slate Magazine. N.p., 2017. Web. 1 May 2017.