A study by advocacy organization Priorities USA revealed that a Wisconsin voter ID law passed in 2011 suppressed roughly 200,000 votes in 2016. Donald Trump carried Wisconsin with only 22,748 votes.
The study compares statistics from 2012 with those of the latest election, and found some worrying trends. Comparing voter turnout between the two years, revealed that states with strict voter ID laws on the books resulted in hampered or even negative turnout gains.
‘While states with no change to voter identification laws witnessed an average increased turnout of +1.3% from 2012 to 2016, Wisconsin’s turnout (where voter ID laws changed to strict) dropped by -3.3%. If turnout had instead increased by the national- no-change average, we estimate that over 200,000 more voters would have voted in Wisconsin in 2016.’
The votes suppressed also skewed largely towards demographics that would’ve been likely to vote for Hillary Clinton.
‘The lost voters skewed more African-American and more Democrat. For example, Wisconsin’s 2016 electorate was 6.1% more Republican, and 5.7% less Democrat, than the group of ‘lost voters’. Furthermore, the WI electorate was 3.7% more White and 3.8% less African American than the group of ‘lost voters.’ This analysis suggests that the 200,000 lost voters would have both been more racially diverse and have voted more Democratic.’
Wisconsin may have suffered the largest dip in voter turnout for the 2016 election, but it was only a piece of a much more serious issue for the nation.
‘In states where the voter identification laws did not change between ’12 and ’16, turnout was up +1.3%. In states where ID laws changed to non-strict (AL, NH, RI) turnout increased less, and was only up by +0.7%. In states where ID laws changed to strict (MS, VA, WI) turnout actually decreased by – 1.7%.’
The overall effect of these changes is that roughly 400,000 fewer voters turned out relative to other states where no strict voter IDs were enacted. Furthermore, the laws were especially harsh to African-American voters in Mississippi, Wisconsin, and Virginia.
‘In counties where African Americans make up less than 10% of the population AND there were no changes to voter ID laws, 2016 turnout was up +1.9% from 2012, but in similar <10% African American counties where ID laws changed to be strict, total turnout decreased by -0.7%. In counties where African Americans make up more than 40% of the population, however, 2016 turnout was down -2.2% from 2012 in states where ID laws did not change, but down -5 points in states where ID laws changed to be strict.’
Priorities USA is a Super PAC and progressive advocacy group that supported Barack Obama in 2012, and Hillary Clinton in 2016. The research was done by Civis Analytics, a data science firm founded by Obama 2012 chief analytics officer Dan Wagner.
It’s important to note that this study was conducted by a democratically-affiliated organization, and did not endure the harsh peer-review process typical of scientific research studies. There have been studies that revealed a similarly harsh picture for the votes suppressed in America, and others that did not.
Nonetheless, a 2014 study by the presumably non-partisan Government Accountability Office revealed that strict voter ID laws in Tennessee and Kansas dropped voter turnout by 2 percent, a cut that disproportionately affected young voters, new voters, and people of color.
Guy Cecil, chairman of Priorities USA, believes he sees an agenda:
‘Americans’ fundamental right to vote is under attack by Republican governors and state legislatures around the country. Under the false pretense of combatting voter fraud, Republicans are passing laws that make it more difficult and time-consuming for average citizens to participate in the democratic process.’
Feature Image via Getty/Andy Manis.