Politics & Policy

The Voter-ID ‘Dent’ That Wasn’t

The Times invents detrimental effects of Texas’s new voter-ID law at this week’s polls.

A New York Times headline Thursday declared: “Texas’ Stringent Voter ID Law Makes a Dent at the Polls.” A careful reading of the article will leave many readers scratching their heads about that title.

The article begins by noting that three prominent Texans — state judge Sandra Watts, state senator Wendy Davis, and state attorney general Greg Abbott — all had photo IDs that did not quite match their names on official voter rolls, and so all had to sign affidavits before they could vote. But . . . they all could and did vote.

Jim Wright — another Texan, whom the Times helpfully identifies as a former U.S. Speaker of the House — had an expired driver’s license, and so he had to produce a birth certificate. But . . . he also voted.

So, when all is said and done, where’s the “dent”?

It’s worth noting that these four voter-ID “victims” are hardly the poor, minority voters that the Left asserts are targeted by these laws. To the contrary, all four are white and quite prominent, one a Republican. They not only got to vote, they were alerted to discrepancies in their voter registrations that they can now get corrected.

This is the new Jim Crow?

The article asserts that, for this new law, “the rollout was sometimes rocky” . . . but then concludes that “in many parts of the state, the law’s first day went better than critics had expected.” What’s more, the article never says in what parts of the state there were problems.

It does, however, note, “Officials also said there was little traffic at the offices set up by the state to provide free voter-ID documents for those without another approved form of identification.” So, in other words, the state had conscientiously prepared for the contingency of people needing voter-ID documents, and had set up offices to provide them for free. That’s a good thing, right? And what’s more, it turns out that there was really no problem after all. Contrary to the hysterical claims of those opposing voter-ID requirements, there apparently are not large numbers of Texas voters who lack identification.

Yet the article proceeds to speculate that problems might arise in a better-publicized election with higher voter turnout. Why? Because those elections might attract the “more casual voter.”

Well, that’s one way to put it. The other way to put it is that there is more likely to be fraud. But in any event, it is a good thing that this week’s low-turnout, “trial run” election ran so smoothly, right?

The Times article acknowledges that the Texas election provided no evidence that women were affected more than men — the latest fear raised by voter-ID critics. And, looking again at the four horror stories that began the article, we see two men and two women as the “victims.” That does not sound very disproportionate.

Still, the article dutifully quotes someone from the League of Women Voters who’s still worried that the law might affect “voters who do not have the proper documentation at all, and might stay away from polls altogether as a result.” So this means that the League of Women Voters thinks that people should be allowed to vote when they “do not have the proper documentation at all.” Wow, really?

But the big surprise comes near the end of the article, where the author gets around to quoting some Republicans, just to be fair. Those partisans provide some unexpected information: “For an off-year election, which included several mayor’s races and statewide constitutional proposals, voting was robust.” It’s no surprise that turnout was actually up, compared with similar elections. After all, turnout has also gone up in other states that have implemented voter-ID laws. The surprise is that the election wasn’t really “low turnout” at all.

Winding the story up, the article examines what other states are doing. The Times, of course, repeats the bizarre assertions that (a) voter fraud is “extremely rare” (ignoring, just for starters, this book) and (b) the laws “target groups” like the poor and minorities (a charge that is belied by the rest of the article). Neither is true, but in any event, the takeaway is that lots of states have passed anti-fraud measures over the past few years — there are now “more than 30” for voter ID alone. Are all these states part of a grand, racist conspiracy? Note also that this must mean that the evil Supreme Court and its recent Shelby County v. Holder decision — which was limited in impact to just a handful of states and occurred after most of these anti-fraud measures had already been passed — is not to blame after all.

Texas’s secretary of state, who might know something about all this, is quoted belatedly as follows: “This was our first statewide election with a photo ID requirement in place, and it was smooth, secure and successful.” Somehow, that pithy summary was not quite up to snuff for the Times’s headline writer.

— Roger Clegg is president and general counsel of the Center for Equal Opportunity, and Hans A. von Spakovsky is senior legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation.


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