Immediately following the GOP’s release of its “autopsy” report examining and explaining the reasons behind their weak showing in November, Arkansas Republicans passed a new voter ID law in the state. Voter ID laws have been extremely popular with Republican lawmakers for the last several years; the party claims they are needed to combat the widespread, common problem of in-person voter fraud that skews election results the wrong way.
The only problem is, despite the above claim, in-person voter fraud is extremely rare, so rare that UFO sightings happen more often. News21 compiled a database of over 2,000 election problems and found that only 10 of those cases could have been prevented with voter ID laws. Most types of election fraud can’t be prevented with voter ID laws.
Voter ID laws, especially in states that have a very small list of acceptable forms of identification, have been shown to disproportionately affect younger voters, the poor, minorities and the elderly. DMVs and other state offices tend to only be open during working hours (if that), requiring long waits, missed work hours, expenditures for gas, and more. Even where the IDs themselves are free, it costs time, money and energy to obtain them.
This was born out in Pennsylvania, where the new voter ID law resulted in hours-long waits at the DMV and at local Social Security offices, with people having to make multiple trips to different offices to obtain the necessary documents for even the vote-only ID. It also required long drives for people living in rural areas without state offices. Elsewhere, voter ID laws resulted in purges of suspected undocumented immigrants, hugely affecting Hispanic populations.
Given that photo ID requirements don’t address most forms of election fraud, plus the fact that they’re primarily introduced by Republicans, many of whom have ties to ALEC, it’s reasonable to conclude that Republicans are overinflating the incidents of in-person voter fraud for their own gain. Most forms of election fraud are committed by election commissions, political action groups and sometimes, the candidates’ own campaigns.
Some election fraud is the result of people voting on an absentee ballot and then voting in person; however, voter ID laws won’t combat this problem any more than it will combat fraud committed by an election committee.
According to U.S. News and World Report, the RNC found that every-day people see the GOP as made up of stuffy old men who are close-minded and extremely out of touch. The Republican National Committee seems to have responded by saying that they need a better public-relations campaign, rather than a change in message. In fact, Tea Partiers like Sarah Palin have said that they’re not there to rebrand the party, but, rather, rebuild the country.
The RNC and other conservatives have said repeatedly over the last few months that they need to do a better job of reaching out to and engaging women and minorities. However, with continued pushes for voter ID laws by Republicans in states like Arkansas, not to mention their continued attempts at restricting women’s reproductive rights and their calls for more tax cuts for the rich, their calls of outreach reek of lip service and nothing more.