Election data in Georgia demonstrate that concern about a negative effect on the Democratic or minority vote is baseless. Turnout there increased more dramatically in 2008 — the first presidential election held after the state’s photo-ID law went into effect — than it did in states without photo ID. Georgia had a record turnout in 2008, the largest in its history — nearly 4 million voters. And Democratic turnout was up an astonishing 6.1 percentage points from the 2004 election, the fourth-largest increase of any state. The black share of the statewide vote increased from 25 percent in 2004 to 30 percent in 2008, according to the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies. According to Census Bureau surveys, 65 percent of the black voting-age population voted in the 2008 election, compared with only 54.4 percent in 2004, an increase of more than ten percentage points.
For those who might reply that this was because Barack Obama was on the ballot, think again. Mississippi, with an equally large black population and no voter ID, had its Democratic turnout increase by only 2.35 percentage points. Georgia’s registration records show that while only 42.9 percent of registered black Georgians voted in 2006, when there was no photo-ID requirement, 50.4 percent voted in the 2010 congressional elections — an increase of more than seven percentage points. Georgia’s secretary of state recently pointed out that, compared with 2006, voter turnout in 2010 “among African Americans outpaced the growth of that population’s pool of registered voters by more than 20 percentage points.”
Indiana witnessed similar results. In the state considered to have the nation’s strictest voter-ID law, turnout in the Democratic presidential primary in 2008 quadrupled from the 2004 election, when there was no photo-ID law. In the general election, the turnout of Democratic voters increased by 8.32 percentage points from 2004, the largest increase in Democratic turnout of any state. Neighboring Illinois, which has no photo-ID requirement and is Obama’s home state, had its Democratic turnout increase by only 4.4 percentage points — barely half of Indiana’s increase. In the 2010 election, Indiana was one of the states with a substantial increase in black turnout: “The black share of the state vote was higher in 2010 than it was in 2008, a banner year for black turnout,” according to the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies. The black share of the total vote went from only 7 percent in 2008 to 12 percent in 2010.
Numerous studies — including those by the Heritage Foundation, the University of Missouri, the University of Delaware, and the University of Nebraska–Lincoln — have looked at data from many states and several elections and concluded that voter ID does not depress turnout. In fact, the Delaware/Nebraska study said that “concerns about voter-identification laws affecting turnout are much ado about nothing.”
About the only thing the Left has had to rely on for its hollow claims about photo ID is a flawed 2006 study — titled “Citizens without Proof” — by the Brennan Center at NYU’s law school supposedly showing that millions of Americans who are eligible to vote lack photo ID. The Brennan Center has been vigorous in opposing almost every sensible voter reform, from voter ID to requiring proof of citizenship when registering to vote. This 2006 study is dubious in its methodology and especially suspect in its sweeping conclusions. It is based on a survey of only 987 “voting-age American citizens,” although it contains no information on how it was determined whether a respondent was actually an American citizen entitled to vote, and might easily have included illegal and legal aliens, felons, and others who are ineligible. The survey then uses the responses of these 987 individuals to estimate, based on the 2000 Census, the number of Americans without valid documentation. Although the report says it was weighted to account for underrepresentation of race, it does not provide the methodology used.
By neglecting to ask whether respondents were actual or likely voters, registered voters, or even eligible voters, the study ignored the most relevant data: the number of eligible citizens who would have actually voted but could not because of voter-ID laws. All pollsters know that the only really accurate polls are of likely voters, not of the voting-age population. Surveys of registered voters have shown the exact opposite of the Brennan Center study: American University found that less than one-half of 1 percent of registered voters in Maryland, Indiana, and Mississippi lacked a government-issued ID. A 2006 survey of more than 36,000 voters found that only 23 people in the entire sample would be unable to vote because of an ID requirement.