A federal judge in Texas has enjoined enforcement of the Texas voter ID law. The judge said the law amounted to a poll tax that discriminated against minorities.
Arguments in Texas mirror those made in a case pending before the Arkansas Supreme Court.
Republicans have admitted that national efforts to pass voter ID laws were intended to depress voter turnout along constituencies — poor, college students, minorities — that tend to favor Democratic candidates. The Arkansas law, which took effect this year, disenfranchised hundreds of absentee voters in the primary elections and perhaps had deeper impact.
A General Accounting Office study, reported by the Washington Post, indicates voter ID laws have suppressed voter turnout, with disproportionate impact among black, young and newly registered voters. This is a plus for Republicans, with their motivated Tea Party and social issue base.
In response to a request from a group of Democratic senators, the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office analyzed the effect of voter ID laws in Kansas and Tennessee on 2012 turnout. Their findings? Turnout dropped at least 1.9 percentage points in Kansas and 2.2 percentage points in Tennessee thanks to the laws. By our calculations, that’s 122,000 fewer votes.
The 200-plus-page report looks at several issues related to laws aimed at tightening rules around voting. The GAO compiled detailed data on various demographic groups in states that changed their laws, reviewed past studies on the effects of new laws on turnout, and attempted to gather data on instances of voter fraud, the rationale usually provided for changing voting rules. Democrats counter that the laws are thinly veiled efforts to reduce the number of their supporters that vote, by adding additional obstacles to black and young voters.
The GAO report suggests that, intentional or not, that’s what happened in Kansas and Tennessee.
It’s enough to make you angry. For some righteous indignation, see Lewis Black above. He’s a spokesmen for the ACLU, which is fighting these vote suppression laws in Arkansas and other states.