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Thursday, February 22, 2007

McIlheran Watch: I Told You So Edition

by folkbum

In the run-up to last fall's spanking election, Patrick McIlheran dragged out one of his favorite dead horses (rumor has it, his is the largest freezer down there at JournalCorp): Voter ID. He was helped with the beating by serial liar John Lott, who spackled together some kind of hooey study about how stricter voter ID laws would somehow increase voter turnout.

It only took me a few moments with teh Google to find out that Lott's fevered imaginings did not match reality at all. At. All.

But don't take my word for it, despite the newfanglediness of the technology I employed to solve the puzzle. Trust real researchers at real universities who haven't, unlike some John Lotts I could name, been caught fabricating stuff.

Cory at the One Blog points us to a New York Times write-up of the study (.pdf):
States that imposed identification requirements on voters reduced turnout at the polls in the 2004 presidential election by about 3 percent, and by two to three times as much for minorities, new research suggests.

The study, prepared by scholars at Rutgers and Ohio State Universities for the federal Election Assistance Commission, supports concerns among voting-rights advocates that blacks and Hispanics could be disproportionately affected by ID requirements. But federal officials say more research is needed to draw firmer conclusions about the effects on future elections.

Tim Vercellotti, a professor at the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University who helped conduct the study, said that in the states where voters were required to sign their names or present identifying documents like utility bills, blacks were 5.7 percent less likely to vote than in states where voters simply had to say their names.

Dr. Vercellotti said Hispanics appeared to be 10 percent less likely to vote under those requirements, while the combined rate for people of all races was 2.7 percent.
I suppose it depends on what it is that you think voter ID laws are really designed to prevent. I hardly think that 2.7% of all voters were hell-bent on fraud (double-voting and the like) and subsequently stymied; that requires believing that literally millions of people across the country were engaged in some sort of vote-stuffing conspiracy, and not even gullible folk like Kevin Barrett would fall for that.

On the other hand, many of us have been warning for a very long time that Republicans pushing so hard for such laws were primarily aiming to depress turnout among Democratic-leaning minority voters, which, as it happens, seems to be exactly what took place. They won't admit this, of course; but the number--even the suspected number--of fraud cases turns out to be incredibly insignificant compared to the increased disenfranchisement this study seems to show. And any attempt to gussy up restrictive laws in the language of fraud and abuse is mere cover for the motives they can't say--or write--in public.

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