Last year when Marion County Clerk Beth White announced she was running for Secretary of State, she made voter engagement and disenfranchisement a main platform item. She said Indiana’s Voter ID law has turned people away from the polls and is one of the most restrictive in the nation. She even said if she had the authority, she would repeal it.
With the election less than three weeks away, I decided to do checking on whether voter ID had in fact disenfranchised Hoosier voters. It turns out the facts don’t seem to bear out White’s characterization of Voter ID.
Looking at the last few statewide elections, here’s what I found with respect to turnout.
- 2012 – 58% 2.07 million
- 2010 – 41% 1.52 million
- 2008 – 62% 2.14 million
- 2006 – 40% 1.54 million
I then decided to check Marion County’s voter turnout since logic would seem to dictate that more voters would be disenfranchised by voter ID since it has a larger percentage of elderly, minorities and the poor who are supposed to be most likely to be impacted.
- 2012 – 56% 361,000
- 2011 – 30% 181,000
- 2010 – 37% 216,000
- 2008 – 55% 381,000
- 2007 – 26% 166,000
- 2006 – 33% 203,000
One would assume that Voter ID would have kept people from the polls and the number of voters would have dropped, but as you can see that is not necessarily the case. If anything the percentages have been pretty consistent or either increased from the last similar election. Please note, that 2008 was a special year with the first credible Black candidate on the ballot. I would submit to you that voter ID isn’t likely to keep voters away from the polls, but candidates and issues.
It is no big secret that mid-term elections bring out fewer people than presidential years. Primaries bring in fewer voters than general elections. And the way this election is turning out, we’ll be lucky if anyone shows up. But to claim that voter ID disenfranchises voters is a bit suspect. We can throw in the fact that voter ID has been the law of the land in Indiana for more than nine years. There have been 12 primary and general elections since then, not to mention a couple special referendums. If you haven’t taken the time to go get a photo ID by then, maybe voting isn’t a priority for you and staying away from the polls is a good thing.
If there was ever a case of voter disenfranchisement, I would take you back to the 2007 May primary in Indianapolis where several polling places either didn’t open or opened late because the Clerk’s office dropped the ball on having enough poll workers and approximately 3,100 voters were never able to cast their ballots. That ladies and gentlemen is disenfranchisement. I wonder who was running elections at that time? I don’t think voter ID was the problem then.
I have no problem with showing an ID to vote. Identification is a part of our life in a mobile society.
Also, if you have to show ID to get food stamps or some other government assistance, what’s wrong with showing ID before you vote. And I have no problem with tweaking the law to protect college students, but to say Voter ID is keeping people away from the polls is silly.
So get informed, go vote, show your ID and shut up.
Abdul-Hakim Shabazz is an attorney, political commentator and publisher of IndyPolitics.org. You can email comments to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.