This recent tweet from Professor Larry Tribe caught my eye: “Call it what you like, but the # of voters turned away for not having required forms of ID exceeded margin of T’s victory in MI, Pa & Wis” As soon as I read it, I said to myself, “That can’t be right.” First of all, no voter ever should be “turned away” for lack of ID. Instead, the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA) requires that voters lacking required ID receive a provisional ballot. To be sure, some poll workers may fail to enforce the mandates of HAVA, but in volumes exceeding Trump’s margins of victory in Michigan (about 11,000), Wisconsin (about 23,000), and Pennsylvania (about 44,000)??? If there had been a massive failure of election administration on that scale, which could have accounted for the outcome of the presidential election, presumably we would have heard news reports of it by now. Just because voters cast provisional ballots does not mean, of course, that those provisional ballots will be counted. In some states, a voter who casts a provisional ballot because the voter lacked a required form of ID is not permitted simply to sign an affidavit to get the ballot counted, but instead within a limited period of time must find a way to get the required ID and show it to local election officials.
It is accurate to say that provisional voters who are unable to procure the required ID within the available amount of time are disenfranchised because of the ID requirement. But in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, are there more voters who fall in this category than Trump’s margin of victory in each of these states? If so, then the number of rejected provisional ballots in each state would exceed Trump’s margin of victory there. I have seen no reports of provisional ballots rejected in such volumes in any of these three states — much less rejected for the particular reason of lacking the required ID, rather than for some other reason (like not being a registered voter, or casting a ballot at an improper polling place given the voter’s home address).
Instead I saw this report about provisional ballots in Wisconsin: “618 were issued because the voter didn’t have an acceptable photo ID,” of which 502 were not counted. It is unfortunate for any eligible citizen who took the trouble to go to the polls to be disenfranchised, but 502 is a far cry from Trump’s 23,000-or-so margin of victory.
It is possible, also, that the number of voters deterred from going to the polls to cast a ballot, because of a required ID law, is greater than a winning candidate’s margin of victory. If so, then one credibly could argue that the suppressive effect of the ID law was responsible for that particular electoral outcome. Did something like this occur in Michigan and Pennsylvania and Wisconsin? I know of no evidence attempting to make this case for any of these three states. Of course, conclusively proving the deterrent effect of an ID law might be a difficult task (how would you show that the reason that a citizen didn’t go to the polls was because of the ID law?); even so, I’m not aware of any effort to make this connection.