Stacey Abrams
Image from C-SPAN.org

“Jim Crow 2.0” voter ID laws do not suppress votes. What else do progressives have wrong?

For years we have heard left-wing politicians and organizations claim that voter ID laws suppress votes, particularly of Black Americans, calling such laws “Jim Crow 2.0.”

Georgia has become ground zero for the debate over voter ID and other election integrity laws. Georgia passed several election reforms last year, including an ID requirement for absentee ballot requests similar to that which we currently have in North Carolina. The backlash from the left and their corporate allies was swift, including Major League Baseball pulling its all-star game out of Atlanta. More recently the U.S. Department of Justice filed an ill-advised lawsuit against Georgia, a suit that will almost assuredly end in a humiliating defeat for the Biden administration, given the recent Supreme Court decision on Arizona’s election integrity laws.

In addition, several prominent Georgia Democrats have recently changed their tune on voter ID:

There has also been a sudden surge in new support for voter ID. Stacey Abrams and Georgia senators Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, for example, have suddenly become big supporters of voter ID despite repeatedly referring to the provisions of Georgia’s new election law, which imposes an ID requirement on absentee ballots, as “Jim Crow 2.0.” [links added]

I would like to think that their change of heart had to do with the research showing that “strict ID laws don’t stop voters” (page 18):

First, the fears that strict ID requirements would disenfranchise disadvantaged populations have not materialized. Using the largest individual-level dataset ever assembled to study voter participation, we do not find any negative effect on overall turnout and registration rates or on any group defined by race, age, gender, or party affiliation.

(The study also did not find a direct impact of voter ID laws on voting fraud but noted: “strict ID laws might affect both the actual number of fraud cases and the likelihood that they get detected and reported.” In other words, states without voter ID may not report cases of fraud because they don’t detect them, and states with voter ID may not report cases of fraud because they deter them.)

However, the more likely cause of their changed positions is that voter ID remains popular with Americans, despite years of progressive campaigns against them. A recent poll found that 75% of Americans think people should present a photo ID before voting.

There are three bills in the North Carolina General Assembly that would help address some of the problems we have seen in the 2020 and other recent elections. We should welcome debate on those so-called “Jim Crow 2.0” bills; perhaps a few more politicians will take a cue from Stacey Abrams and change their minds.

Andy Jackson / Director of the Civitas Center for Public Integrity | John Locke Foundation