In Absurd Defense Of Voter ID Laws: Wall Street Journal Edition


The Wall Street Journal's James Taranto illogically claimed that recent comments from a National Urban League activist prove that voter ID laws do not suppress minority votes. Despite Taranto's defense of his flawed theory, research clearly indicates that voter ID laws target minority voters.

TarantoIn his Wall Street Journal column, Taranto highlighted comments by Chanelle Hardy, a vice president at the National Urban League. According to Talking Points Memo, Hardy stated that Republican efforts to pass voter ID laws may have backfired by increasing enthusiasm among African American voters and increasing turnout. Taranto argued that Hardy's comments contradict claims from voter ID opponents that the laws restrict the rights of eligible minority voters.

Taranto's argument is absurd: an increase in voter enthusiasm in a specific group does not prove that other members of that group did not have their voting rights restricted. This claim is similar to one made in 2011 by Taranto's fellow voter ID proponent Hans von Spakowsky who argued at the time that high turnout in Georgia in 2008, following the passage of voter ID laws, proved that the legislation had no effect on voting rights. Justin Levitt, a professor at Loyola Law School, pointed out that von Spakowsky's logic was also flawed:

"There's a basic -- and I mean basic -- misconception here," Levitt said. "It's called the correlation-causation fallacy, and anybody who's had statistics for a week can talk to you about it."

"Mr. von Spakovsky and I agree on one thing, that the turnout studies don't show great impact, but that's because they can't," Levitt said. "You can't draw any real conclusions about that."

"I'll give you an example. Mr. von Spakovsky supports voter ID restrictions. I oppose them. Mr. von Spakovsky has no facial hair. I have facial hair. But certainly opposition to voter ID doesn't cause facial hair," he said.

Taranto also ignored research that has consistently shown that voter ID laws disproportionately target minority voters. A September 12 Associated Press article highlighted a study by the University of Chicago's Cathy Cohen and Washington University's Jon Rogowski who concluded that as a result of the voter ID laws passed and being enforced at the time, "as many as 700,000 minority voters under 30 may be unable to cast a ballot in November."

On December 23, 2011, the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division found that minority voters in South Carolina were "nearly 20% more likely to lack DMV- issued ID than white registered voters" and that "[n]on-white voters were therefore disproportionately represented, to a significant degree, in the group of registered voters who, under the proposed law, would be rendered ineligible to go to the polls and participate in the election."

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