In 2016, those efforts were successful in lowering turnout in just enough key targeted areas of the state that Donald Trump was able to win by less than a quarter percent of the vote over Hillary Clinton.
A post-election study found that up to as many as 45,000 people in our state were deterred from voting in 2016 due to the restrictive voter ID law, and other voter suppression laws that Wisconsin Republicans enacted before the 2016 election. Donald Trump won the state by about half of that vote total (just under 23,000 votes was the margin that decided our state).
In Milwaukee County alone, the most diverse county in the state, voter turnout dropped 45,000 votes in 2016 compared to the 2012 election. It’s estimated that between 10,000-15,000 of those people who decided not to vote that year did so because of the states’s restrictive voter ID law.
Voter suppression, however, was not and is not limited to our state. It’s a problem that plagues many of the most important states that will decide who wins the presidency, who takes control of the U.S. Senate, and who wins control of state legislatures ahead of the redistricting process that will take place after the 2020 Census is done.
A study done by MIT found that there may have been up to as many as one million lost votes throughout the United States in 2016 due to issues people encountered when they attempted to cast a ballot. Unsurprisingly, the groups that tended experience the brunt of these issues weren’t white voters in Republican areas. They were minority voters, and others who lived in Democratic areas of states which were controlled by Republican governments who had passed specific voter suppression laws to make it difficult, if not impossible for those people to vote.
Republicans have tried to claim that voter ID laws, and the other measures they’ve put in place to make it more difficult to vote, are a necessary evil. They argue that they ensure the integrity of vote, and prevent widespread voter fraud which they say is a rampant problem.
Their actions are addressing a problem that simply doesn’t exist.
The Brennan Center did a detailed analysis over a decade ago, in 2007 before many states enacted these restrictive voter ID laws, to see what the number of cases of in-person voter fraud was in the United States. They didn’t find that percentage of fraudulent votes was 10%, 1%, or even 0.1% as Republicans would have you believe. The percentage of in-person voter fraud that they found was “between 0.0003 percent and 0.0025, percent.” Those odds translated: An American would have a better chance of being “struck by lightning than that he will impersonate another voter at the polls.”
In 2014, the Washington Post did their own extensive analysis to see what the number of cases of voter fraud was in the United States in every election from 2000 through 2014. The found just 31 “credible cases” of voter fraud across 1 BILLION votes cast in those elections. Later studies have suggested that number may even be much lower than that.
What isn’t disputable, however, is that voter ID laws have a negative effect on turnout that benefits Republicans, hurts Democrats, and those who are affected by those laws the most are minority voters who are, of course, citizens of our country.
The American Civil Liberties Union has a comprehensive fact sheet on how voter ID laws can impact that vote here. A few highlights from that sheet:
- ” 11% of U.S. citizens – or more than 21 million Americans – do not have government-issued photo identification.”
- The cost to obtain a photo ID, even a “free” one which requires getting documentation and traveling to a government office to get one, is estimated to cost someone between “$75-175.”
- ” Nationally, up to 25% of African-American citizens of voting age lack government-issued photo ID, compared to only 8% of whites.”
- A 2014 study found ” strict photo ID laws reduce turnout by 2-3 percentage points.” The number is much higher among minority groups.
Another way in which the vote has been suppressed is the purging of voter rolls.
The Brennan Center recently released a study that found that AT LEAST 17 million voters were purged from state voter rolls across the country between 2016 and 2018. The median rate of purges in areas that used to require pre-clearance from the federal government under the Voting Rights Act before making any election changes was 40%. Those communities, of course, are disproportionately diverse ones.
All of these efforts, done in tandem, have an effect. Even in the 2018 mid-terms, a favorable year for Democrats, black turnout was at 51.4% compared to 40.6% in 2014. However, that rate basically matched black turnout from 2016, and was still well below the levels of black turnout from 2012 which was the last election before many state’s voter ID laws went into effect.
Republicans know that can’t win elections by trying to persuade people. Instead, they try to rig the rules of the game in every possible way to make it harder for people to vote.
Republicans aren’t protecting the integrity of our elections. They’re destroying the very ideas and principles that a healthy, and well-functioning democracy depends on.
Fortunately, there are ways for us to combat these efforts.
The goal of this organization is to put volunteers and organizers on the ground in key states now so they can fight voter suppression efforts at a localized level. This work has to be done now, because the sooner we inform people of how to vote and what they need to vote, the more likely it is that they’ll be prepared to vote, whether it’s this fall in states that have elections, or our state (and others) next spring/fall.
Join the fight against voter suppression today! This is how we win!