Setting the record straight on voter ID laws

Cleta Mitchell President, Republican National Lawyers Association
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A number of editorial boards (including The Washington Post’s and USA Today’s) have been misled by “studies” on voter ID by groups with leftist political objectives, but there is ample evidence that there is a need for voter ID laws to promote fairness and integrity at the ballot box. Here are some facts to set the record straight on voter ID.

Voter fraud is real and has impacted elections. A comprehensive study of the 2004 election in Wisconsin by the Milwaukee Police Department found that there was an “illegal organized attempt to influence the outcome of elections.” American University’s nonpartisan Center for Democracy and Election Management found that 17 percent of individuals surveyed saw or heard of fraud at their polling places while 60 percent saw or heard of fraud at other polling places. A study by the Colorado secretary of state found that nearly 5,000 noncitizens voted in Colorado’s closely contested 2010 Senate race. Recently, the New Mexico secretary of state turned over 64,000 cases (which constitute nearly 10% of those who voted) to the state police for investigation of whether voter fraud was committed.

Turnout would not be decreased by voter ID laws. In the Supreme Court case of Marion v. Crawford County Board of Elections, plaintiffs could not cite a single eligible resident who could not vote due to Indiana’s voter ID law. A 2009 University of Delaware study by Jason Mycoff found that in four elections from 2000 to 2006 “voter identification laws [did] not affect voter turnout.” A University of Missouri study by Jeffrey Milyo found that Indiana’s photo voter ID law had no effect on voter turnout in counties with higher concentrations of minority, poor, elderly or less educated voters. Voter turnout actually increased in counties with Democratic majorities. According to the 2006 Cooperative Congressional Election Survey (CCES), in which 37 universities participated, only one-tenth of one percent of voters said they were not allowed to vote because of voter identification requirements. Dr. Stephen Ansolabehere found that only four people out of 1,113 non-voters surveyed cited ID requirements as one reason for not voting, but those four people also cited other reasons.

There is reason to doubt the statistics from leftist groups like the Brennan Center for Justice, which makes the outrageous claim of being nonpartisan. A large number of the Brennan Center’s staff worked for Democrats: Executive Director Michael Waldman was a speechwriter for President Bill Clinton, Liberty & National Security Program Co-Director Elizabeth Goitein worked for Senator Russ Feingold and Chief Counsel Frederick A.O. Schwarz Jr. was at the New York City Corporation Counsel under Mayor Ed Koch. You’d be hard-pressed to find a single conservative or moderate working at the Brennan Center.

Another offender is the DNC’s Voting Rights Institute, which is chaired by Donna Brazile. The group has exaggerated the real price tag of voter ID, saying that photo ID laws under consideration in 36 states would cost between $276 million and $828 million combined over the first four years of implementation. The nonpartisan Pew Center on the States estimated that the cost of implementing these laws would be far lower. The DNC got its inflated cost estimates by assuming that all voting-age citizens, not just registered voters, would vote in elections.

Most Americans recognize the need for voter ID laws. A recent Rasmussen poll found that 75% of total voters “believe voters should be required to show photo identification, such as a driver’s license, before being allowed to vote.” According to the poll, 85% of Republicans and 63% of Democrats support photo voter ID. Groups like the Brennan Center and the DNC’s Voting Rights Institute are far more liberal than most Democrats when it comes to voter ID. With three-fourths of the electorate supporting voter ID, and so much research behind it, voter ID should be the law.

Cleta Mitchell is the President of the Republican National Lawyers Association.