Editorials: Free and fair elections attract investment, no matter who’s elected. Here’s why. | Mike Touchton/The Washington Post

If developing countries want to be prosperous and attract international investment, they should hold free and fair elections. That’s the takeaway from my analysis of data on elections and net investment flows in 157 countries between 1990 and 2013, which I presented in a recent paper in International Interactions. Over the past years, illiberal democracy has been spreading across the developing world. By “illiberal democracy” I mean countries like Venezuela, Argentina, and Hungary, which hold elections but curtail civil liberties, where constitutions limit power in theory but where in practice the rule of law is flexible at best, and no one holds leaders to account. For them, it may be useful to know that simply holding free and fair elections makes a big difference in attracting investment, whether a right- or left-leaning party wins the election or whether the country has a broader commitment to political rights. Let’s look at why.

Editorials: Steve Israel: Confessions of a Congressman | The New York Times

It’s now safe to pick up your phones and read your emails. That’s right, I won’t be calling to ask you to donate to my congressional campaign. As I announced on Tuesday, I’ll be leaving Congress at the end of this term — sentimental about many things, but liberated from a fund-raising regime that’s never been more dangerous to our democracy. In the days after my first election to Congress, in 2000, I attended several orientation sessions in Washington, eager to absorb the lessons of history. I wanted to learn what Congressman Abraham Lincoln had learned, to hear the wisdom of predecessors like John Quincy Adams, Daniel Webster and Joseph Gurney Cannon. The romance was crushed by lesson No. 1: Get re-elected. A fund-raising consultant advised that if I didn’t raise at least $10,000 a week (in pre-Citizens United dollars), I wouldn’t be back.

Editorials: Initiative 55: Giving Colorado’s unaffiliated voters a voice | Thomas E. Cronin and Robert D. Loevy/The Denver Post

Designing legislative districts that favor one political party or the other is one of the unseen back-room political maneuvers that can have a major influence on the outcome of state elections. But that sort of gerrymander, as the process is often called, may be harder to pull off if an initiated constitutional amendment — Initiative 55 — were to pass. The amendment, which has not yet been certified for the 2016 ballot, could benefit unaffiliated voters in Colorado. Under consideration is a proposal to give them a major role in legislative and congressional redistricting, the drawing of the boundary lines of the districts from which state representatives, state senators, and members of the U.S. House are elected.

Editorials: Guam deserves voting right | Pacific Daily News

A sudden gust of icy wind howls across the bay and into the darkened streets of Boston. The year is 1773, just a week before Christmas Eve. Snow begins to fall from the sky as a small group of colonial men emerge from the shadows. Moving quickly, they board a British vessel carrying a shipment of tea. The story is a familiar one; no American history book would be complete without the account of the Boston Tea Party. This single event is seen by many as the beginning of America’s fight for independence. This act of rebellion sent our battle cry across the Atlantic and into the ears of the king: “No taxation without representation!” Hundreds of years later, every American reaps the benefits of our founder’s actions. Because of the bravery of these men, every single American citizen is allowed life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Every American is given a say in who represents them. But that’s not completely true, is it?

Editorials: Permanent Canadian residents should have the vote | Winnipeg Free Press

Perhaps no country has had greater success than Canada in welcoming newcomers. This is particularly so in our big cities, which have become some of the most harmoniously diverse places in the world. But for a country that celebrates diversity — Canada was the first country in the world to make multiculturalism official policy, and we are now the world’s second-most-heterogeneous society — we are less committed to the backbone of democratic society: voting rights. Recognizing permanent residents pay local taxes and use city services, some 50 countries around the world — including Ireland, New Zealand and Belgium — allow resident non-citizens to vote in municipal elections. Despite a growing movement among Canadian cities to enfranchise permanent residents — the decision lies with provincial legislatures, not municipal councils — Canada is not among them.

Editorials: The Next Big Voting-Rights Fight | Emily Bazelon & Jim Rutenberg/The New York Times

Over the past year, The New York Times Magazine has chronicled the long campaign that led to the Supreme Court’s 2013 nullification of the Voting Rights Act’s most powerful provision — its Section 5 — and the consequences that decision has had for minority voters. As I’ve written in our Disenfranchised series, the gutting of Section 5 facilitated an onslaught of restrictive new laws that made voting disproportionately harder for minorities across the country, marking the biggest setback to minority voting rights in the half-century since President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act. Earlier this month, the Supreme Court heard a new case, Evenwel v. Abbott, that could also have a significant effect on minority political power — specifically, Hispanic voting power. Evenwel stems from a case first instigated in Texas by the same conservative group — the Project on Fair Representation — that helped bring about the decision gutting Section 5 in 2013. Like all of these big election cases, the issues involved are complicated, which may explain why Evenwel has drawn less media attention than it deserves; it does not reduce easily into sound bites. But the Court’s decision in Evenwel could be among the most important developments in politics in 2016, and well beyond. This series would not be complete for 2015 without a review of the case. My colleague Emily Bazelon and I have done our best to break it down as simply as possible, trading off segments to explain the main legal questions at play, the potential consequences and the likely outcomes. A decision is expected by June of 2016.

Editorials: Michigan: Where voters pay for their disenfranchisement | Curtis Hertel Jr./Detroit Free Press

Our system of government is set up to advocate for the will of the majority, while also protecting the fundamental rights of the minority. That isn’t happening in Michigan. On the last day of session, Republicans rammed Senate Bill 571, a 53-page bill, through the Legislature with zero committee review and zero public input. This bill, SB 571, not only increases corporate influence and money over elections, but also silences school districts, local governments and even librarians from educating the public about local millages and bond proposals. Regardless of the fact that some Republicans have admitted that they never read the bill and probably do not support it, Gov. Rick Snyder signed it into law anyway.

Editorials: It’s time in 2016 to grant Irish abroad the right to vote | The Irish Times

So it has begun. The Centennial Year: 40 State-sponsored events, hundreds of local commemorations, events in New York and Washington DC and countless other places where the Irish diaspora has gathered. After a shaky start, the Government has righted itself and come forward with a thoughtful and comprehensive programme that culminates in a series of Easter anniversary events and a major national conference on the future of the Republic 100 years on. Countless books will be published, and historians will be in demand on talk shows as Irish people take a long look back of what they have made of the Republic. Everything thing seems well in hand to celebrate how far we have come, except for the reality that one million Irish emigrants are effectively non-citizens of this Republic. They can’t vote.

Editorials: Voter data breach shows need for higher security thresholds | San Francisco Chronicle

It’s a sad feature of contemporary life that data breaches are as common as changes in the weather. Still, the news that a misconfigured database resulted in the exposure of about 191 million registered voters’ personal information is incredibly alarming. For years, skeptical political theorists have warned that, although new technology held great potential for voting, it came with many potential threats to voter privacy and security. Unfortunately, some of these valid concerns were hijacked by conspiracy theorists, especially after a notorious series of scandals were linked to Diebold voting machines in the 2004 presidential election. But given this week’s news, it’s time to return to the question of how technology can compromise voter security, with an eye to developing constructive solutions.

Editorials: Republicans should accept redistricting defeat and drop talk of appeals | The Tampa Tribune

For a brief moment last week it appeared the Florida Legislature had come to its senses and was willing to accept a judge’s ruling on the boundaries for new state Senate districts. But that proved to be nothing more than wishful thinking. After indicating there would be no appeal, the Republicans behind the failed Senate redistricting maps say they are considering a number of avenues to appeal. That would surely add to the $8 million in legal fees the Legislature has wasted over several years trying to gain approval of the flawed maps it produced. For the sake of the taxpayers, if nothing else, legislative leaders should end the redistricting battle and begin implementing the Senate map Circuit Judge George Reynolds approved last week. Not only would it save tax dollars and end years of chaos, it would mean the state will finally have Senate districts that adhere to the Fair District amendments voters passed in 2010.

Editorials: Want to rewrite Canadian democracy? Hold a referendum | The Globe and Mail

For as long as there’s been a Canada, Canadians have voted according to what’s known as first-past-the-post. Each voter gets one vote, and each electoral district gets one member of Parliament. In each of Canada’s 338 federal districts, the candidate who has the greatest number of “X”s beside their name wins, and becomes the MP. In last fall’s election, the Liberal Party promised to scrap this system: “We are committed,” says the platform, “to ensuring that 2015 will be the last federal election conducted under the first-past-the-post voting system.” The Liberals didn’t say what they would put in its place, only that the system that has been around since Confederation is so unacceptable it has to be quickly be replaced with something – anything.

Editorials: 2015: The year in recalls | Joshua Spivak/The Week

The stunning success of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders in the 2016 presidential race suggests that American voters are very restless, and very displeased with the political status quo. That’s certainly true. But it’s also nothing new. And perhaps no statistic shows this better than the continuing popularity of recall elections. For the fifth year in a row, more than 100 officials across the U.S. have either faced an actual recall vote or resigned in the face of such a threat. The use of the recall may in some ways be seen as a product of an empowered, technologically connected, and occasionally enraged electorate. After all, for the better part of the 20th century, the recall was an almost forgotten relic of the Progressive Era. But no more. As we saw in Wisconsin in 2011 and 2012, and Colorado in 2013, recalls have become a major part of the political landscape. And when they get on the ballot, they work. This year, 108 recalls got on the ballot or led to a resignation. Of those 108, 65 officials were ousted, and 15 resigned. Only 28 survived the voters’ wrath.

Editorials: Supreme Court Grapples, Once Again, With Redistricting | Michael Barone/Rasmussen Reports

Fifty-one years ago the Supreme Court handed down its one-person-one-vote decision, requiring that within each state congressional and legislative districts must have equal populations. That gave redistricters a relatively easy standard to meet. Census data provides block-by-block population counts every 10 years, and it’s possible now to draw lines for districts so that their populations are identical or vary by just one person. But redistricting cases keep making their way to the Court nonetheless. One reason is that the Voting Rights Act amendments of the 1980s have been interpreted as requiring the creation of a maximum number of districts with majorities or near-majorities of black or Hispanic residents. This has produced many grotesquely shaped constituencies and much litigation.

Editorials: In 2015, hope and fear on voting rights | Zachary Roth/MSNBC

At least for some Americans, it could be harder to vote in next year’s presidential election than in any for several decades. And yet, there are genuine reasons for new-found optimism about the state of U.S. voting rights. If that sounds hard to square, consider that perhaps for the first time this century, there’s now unquestionably more energy behind efforts to make voting easier than to make it harder. Continuing a trend that began after the 2012 election, numerous mostly blue states — with an important nudge from Hillary Clinton — have introduced, and sometimes passed, a slew of expansive bills, including one idea that could transform access to the ballot. Meanwhile, the march of major new GOP-backed restrictions that characterized the period from 2011 to 2014 essentially came to a halt. But voting rights advocates are a long way from celebrating. Nothing happened to undo existing restrictions, and the worst of them remain in place. And as 2016 approaches, the Roberts Court, with its conservative majority, looks likely to play the lead role in shaping the voting landscape going forward.

Editorials: Flirting With a Chaotic GOP Convention | Benjamin L. Ginsberg/Wall Street Journal

Reports of Republican officials convening a closed-door session over the possibility of a deadlocked convention are feeding speculation over what happens if 19 weeks of primaries, caucuses and conventions leave a muddled picture. The past nine Republican conventions began with a presumptive nominee. And the chances of delegates arriving at the convention in Cleveland next July with no clear nominee remain small. But the odds are no longer infinitesimal thanks to the multicandidate field, required early proportional voting, and the fact that only 16.2% of the delegates will have been chosen in decisive, winner-take-all contests. Three convention scenarios can emerge after 56 states and territories choose their delegates between Feb. 1 and June 7: There will be a clear winner, a bunched up field of several candidates, or a leader who can’t get a majority of delegates on the first ballot. The latter two scenarios would make Cleveland uncharted territory.

Editorials: Don’t exclude 145,600 Iowans from online registration | Des Moines Register

On the face of it, Iowa’s online voter registration system, scheduled to launch next week, should make it easier to participate in elections. But legitimate concerns have been raised over the system’s potential impact on the rights of the disadvantaged, and so far the state has been slow to respond. The new system will enable only those individuals who have a driver’s license or non-operator identification card issued by the Iowa Department of Transportation to take advantage of online voter registration. That’s a problem because, according to the DOT’s own estimates, roughly 145,600 eligible Iowa voters don’t have a license or ID card. This new process is also inconsistent with state law, which doesn’t require Iowans to be a licensed driver or to possess a DOT-issued ID card to exercise their right to register and vote in an election.

Editorials: Ann Ravel gets points for trying to force the Federal Election Commission into action | The Sacramento Bee

For a political reformer, Ann Ravel had what might have been the job of a lifetime: chair of the Federal Election Commission. But as Ravel ends her year as chairwoman, the commission is much as it was upon her arrival: paralyzed by partisanship. It’s not for her lack of effort. Ravel tried logic, argument, persuasion, and, exasperated, she tried to embarrass fellow commissioners. Her most important accomplishment is that she told the story of the broken commission to anyone who would listen, not just the insiders who pay attention to such matters. On “The Daily Show,” she agreed with with the comedic interviewer’s assessment that the commission is about as functional as men’s nipples. Over the top, perhaps, but no other commission chair has appeared on such a show. It turns out that at least three of six of commissioners were beyond embarrassment.

Editorials: One (mostly white, older) person, one vote | William H. Frey/The Washington Post

This month in Evenwel v. Abbott, the Supreme Court heard arguments for altering the long-standing principle of “one person, one vote” by substituting voting-age citizens for total population when drawing legislative districts within states. While much has been said about the implications of eliminating noncitizens from the population on which district lines are based, a ruling in favor of the plaintiffs in this case could have an even larger impact: shortchanging the interests of minority children and their families. That’s because nearly half of the nation’s under-18 population is made up of racial minorities, while 70 percent of voting-age citizens are white. The United States is undergoing a boom in demographic diversity, but it’s the younger population that’s being transformed first. Removing the racially diverse youth population from the apportionment calculation would intensify a divisive cultural generation gap that pervades politics and public attitudes in this country. Pew Research polling has shown that the mostly white older population is far less accepting of immigrant minorities and government support for social programs than is the increasingly minority younger population. The rise of immigrant-bashing presidential candidate Donald Trump as a hero among older white Republican primary voters represents an extreme version of the pushback against a demographically changing country.

Editorials: Michigan should do away with the straight-ticket option | Peter Lucido/Detroit Free Press

Of all the things that make our country great, nothing is more universally cherished than our right to vote. Americans choose their own destiny, and they exercise that choice through the democratic process. We are born and raised into thinking of our system as generally idyllic, or close to it. Considering how far we’ve come, it’s no surprise that many people are resistant to change or hesitant to move in any direction out of fear that we are undermining a fundamental element of our American rights. However, who can vote and how are factors that have undergone both societal and constitutional change over the course of our nation’s history. A brief look at our past will confirm that the willingness to revisit or redefine our voting process is generally for the better, when the goal is a more representative democracy. Michigan is one of only 10 states that still uses straight-ticket voting. Why should we settle for less?

Editorials: Trudeau must turf first-past-the-post system once and for all | Kelly Carmichael/National Observer

In the 2015 election, the Liberal Party committed to a platform they called “Make Every Vote Count.” Now, they are poised to embark on a process that could make Canada fairer and more inclusive for all voters. The stakes couldn’t be higher for democracy. So what’s the problem we’re trying to fix? On October 19, over 9,000,000 voters (51.8 per cent) were unable to make their vote count and elect a representative to bring their voices to Ottawa. The country elected a majority Liberal government, but as usual did so with less than a majority of the vote (39.5 per cent). Most Liberals in Alberta and Saskatchewan, New Democrats and Conservatives in Toronto and Atlantic Canada— and Greens nearly everywhere— elected no representation to Parliament. That’s a big problem. When your vote means nothing, it disempowers citizens and breeds disdain for democracy— and widespread apathy.

Editorials: Supporting Universal Voter Registration Should Be a Bipartisan Effort | Colin Curtis/Huffington Post

Regardless of where on the political spectrum you fall, we, as Americans who love and believe in democracy, can all agree that voting should be as easy as possible to do, right? Obviously I’m being sarcastic here because it doesn’t take more than a moment of searching on the Internet for anyone to find an article about an elected official in a state like Kansas *cough* Kris Kobach *cough* doing everything they possibly can to make it harder for people to take part in the voting process. It also won’t take anyone very long to find a few articles about the idea of automatic universal voter registration. As a native Kansan the idea of just automatically registering people to vote without making them submit a form and then jump through additional burdensome hoops seems as imaginary as a Hippogriff. However, Oregon and California have both done exactly that, and other states such as Maryland are looking to follow suit. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, implementing national automatic universal voter registration would add up to 50 million eligible voters to current voting rolls, save money, increase the accuracy of elections, and curb the potential for fraud and protect the integrity of our elections. While that sentence is likely to make Kris Kobach’s head explode, it provides four good reasons as to why we should have a national universal automatic voter registration system but since Congress is… well, Congress, this is unlikely to ever happen and it provides four good reasons as to why states should do it themselves.

Editorials: How to Block Minority Representation, Yesterday and Today | David A. Graham/The Atlantic

The ongoing battle over voter rights—or, depending on your partisan persuasion, voter fraud—is on one level a struggle over whether it’s more important to ensure that the most people possible can vote, and that voting laws don’t have a disparate racial impact; or whether it’s more important to ensure the sanctity of the ballot box against errors, regardless of how that might inconvenience minorities, young people, or other groups. (One salient point here is that most restrictions—reducing early voting, closing polling locations, requiring specific photo ID—hurt minority turnout, while evidence of fraud is practically nonexistent.) On another level, though, it’s a battle about history: whether the restrictions being enacted in red states are part of a new struggle over civil rights, or whether the struggle for racial equality is completed and these news laws are totally different. Proponents of voter-ID laws understandably wish to distance themselves from their segregation-era predecessors, for both moral and political reasons. Officials in Shelby County v. Holder didn’t argue that racist voter suppression never happened; they argued that strenuous protections were no longer necessary. The Court agreed and struck down a requirement that certain jurisdictions submit any changes in voting laws to the Department of Justice to assess whether they were discriminatory.

Editorials: Poll workers needed | Cincinnati Enquirer

Hamilton County elections need your help. That’s the obvious takeaway from the county Board of Elections’ recent post-mortem of the snafu-filled Nov. 3 election. The board found that 84 percent of its polling stations had problems on Election Day. Among other issues, many poll workers struggled with the setup for electronic poll site equipment. Some local high school seniors assisting at the polls played hero by adroitly dealing with electronic issues. Clearly, Hamilton County needs more poll workers comfortable with troubleshooting a wi-fi router connection. It takes about 2,600 workers to operate the county’s polls on Election Day, and while the Board of Election has done well making sure polling locations are staffed, it needs workers who are fluent in using technology.

Editorials: Block the Vote | Jim Rutenberg/The New York Times

In September 2000, Oscar Del Toro of Monterrey, Mexico, arrived with his wife and three children at George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston to start a new life in the United States. Del Toro, then 38, had spent his whole life in Mexico. His mother and father were naturalized American citizens who lived near Houston and had wanted to bring him to the United States with them. But because he was already an adult, with a wife and a child, he was subject to a long waiting period for a green card. He went on with his life in Mexico, building a business selling laser printers and buying a comfortable four-bedroom house. He had more or less forgotten all about the prospect of moving to the United States when, around Christmas in 1999, his mother told him she had a present for him: an Immigration and Naturalization Service letter inviting him and his family to apply for permanent residency.

Editorials: Political Campaigns Are Spying on You, and There Are No Rules to Stop Them | Brendan Sasso/National Journal

If In­ter­net com­pan­ies like Google or Face­book mis­lead users and vi­ol­ate their pri­vacy, they can find them­selves in trouble with fed­er­al reg­u­lat­ors. If gov­ern­ment agen­cies spy on people without the prop­er au­thor­iz­a­tion, they can get slapped down by a judge. Polit­ic­al cam­paigns, however, face no such hurdles when it comes to scrap­ing in­form­a­tion from private cit­izens. In­stead, they op­er­ate in a leg­al dead zone out­side the reach of fed­er­al reg­u­lat­ors. The Fed­er­al Trade Com­mis­sion reg­u­lates com­mer­cial pri­vacy is­sues, but has no jur­is­dic­tion over polit­ic­al cam­paigns. The Fed­er­al Elec­tion Com­mis­sion reg­u­lates cam­paigns, but has no pri­vacy reg­u­la­tions.
In re­cent years, cam­paigns have be­come in­creas­ingly ag­gress­ive in their ef­forts to build psy­cho­lo­gic­al pro­files on mil­lions of po­ten­tial voters. “There are no lim­its, and there should be,” said Jeff Chester, the ex­ec­ut­ive dir­ect­or of the Cen­ter for Di­git­al Demo­cracy, a pri­vacy ad­vocacy group. “Do you really want the Left or the Right to have a dossier about you to fig­ure out how to ma­nip­u­late you?”

Editorials: Time doesn’t heal wounds from Bush v. Gore | Stephen Carter/The Morning Call

Saturday marked the 15th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s controversial decision in Bush v. Gore, which put a stop to the recount in Florida, and thereby handed George W. Bush the 2000 presidential election. The case excited considerable scholarly argument, along with a partisan rancor that continues to this day. Looking back, however, it’s hard to imagine an outcome that would have left the losing side satisfied — whichever side it happened to be. Let’s remember the background. First, the “election night” count awarded the state to Republican George W. Bush by 1,784 votes over Democrat Al Gore. An automatic recount, required by state law because of the small margin, determined that Bush had won the state by 537 votes. On Nov. 26, the state’s election authority certified that Bush had won. The Gore campaign protested that thousands of ballots — the so-called undervotes — had been rejected by the counting machines and should have been tabulated by hand. The Gore campaign sued, and the Florida Supreme Court, by a vote of 4-3, ordered a manual recount of all undervotes statewide. The Bush campaign then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which heard oral arguments on Dec. 11 and, on Dec. 12, ordered the recount stopped, on equal protection grounds, because the state had no clear standard for determining voter intent in tabulating the undervotes.

Editorials: Bush v. Gore as Precedent in Ohio and Beyond | Richard Hasen/ACS

Almost from the moment in December 2000 that the Supreme Court decided its controversial opinion in Bush v. Gore ending the recount in Florida, there has been great debate about whether the case had any precedential value and, assuming it did, what precisely its equal protection principle stood for. Was it a one-day-only ticket? Is it a case about equality of procedures in the conduct of a jurisdiction-wide recount? Or does it require broader equal treatment of voters, so as to fulfill Bush v. Gore’s admonition against the government, by “arbitrary and disparate treatment, valu[ing] one person’s vote over that of another”? We may finally find out the case’s precedential value as soon as the 2016 elections. At the Supreme Court, Bush v. Gore has been a legal Voldemort, a case whose name a Court majority has dare not spoken since 2000. Only Justice Clarence Thomas has cited the case, in a dissenting opinion, and not speaking on its equal protection principles.

Editorials: Republicans’ coup de grace on voting rights? | Scott Lemieux/The Week

Last week the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a case called Evenwel v. Abbott. The case involves an issue of increasing importance to American politics: congressional districting. It got to the Supreme Court because conservative litigators with a successful track record of fighting against the right to vote are trying to turn the logic of pro-voter rights decisions on their head. And it’s very possible that they may succeed again. This most recent battle in the voting rights war involves two of the Warren Court’s most important decisions. One of the tactics that state legislatures used to disenfranchise African-Americans was to draw district lines (or refuse to revise them) in ways that left minority voters massively underrepresented. In Alabama in 1964, for example, some counties included 40 times more people than others. In Baker v. Carr and Reynolds v. Sims, the Supreme Court held that such schemes were illegal. States were required to adhere to a “one person, one vote” standard when apportioning their legislatures. Combined with robust enforcement of the Voting Rights Act, these landmark cases helped to end Jim Crow disenfranchisement schemes.

Editorials: Bush vs. Gore’s ironic legal legacy | Jamie Raskin/Los Angeles Times

Fifteen years after Bush vs. Gore, 15 years after the Supreme Court intervened in a presidential election, a single sentence in the majority opinion remains one of the great constitutional brainteasers in our history. If we take the sentence at face value, it’s nonsensical; if we ignore it, we might just be able to improve our dysfunctional election system, at least modestly. As we all know, the Supreme Court on Dec. 11, 2000, ordered an end to ballot-counting in Florida, effectively calling the election for the national popular vote loser, George W. Bush. And as most fair-minded legal experts agree, the rationale for leaving more than 100,000 ballots uncounted was convoluted — an extravagant and unprecedented twist on Equal Protection law.

Editorials: The public doesn’t support restrictive voter ID laws, but many new ones will be in force in 2016 | Herman Schwartz/Reuters

Defenders of photo ID laws regularly cite public opinion polls that show widespread support for their arguments. Yet these polls reveal no such support, and they prove nothing about this new restrictive legislation because the polls’ questions cover a far broader range of IDs than the actual laws accept as proof of identity. Many of the new laws do not accept a college student ID, for example, or an out-of-state driver’s license; but the polls drawing favorable responses encompass such IDs. As always, the devil is in the details. When Republicans won full control of 21 states in 2010, they promptly adopted measures to restrict and deter voting by minorities, the poor and the young, all key components of the Democratic base. One of the most effective measures requires voters to show one of a restricted set of photo IDs issued by either a state or federal government. Government studies have shown that these laws can prevent or deter significant numbers of poor and minority voters from voting. By 2015, 13 states had adopted what the National Conference of State Legislatures considers a “strict” voter photo ID law, including seven Southern states formerly subject to federal oversight under the Voting Rights Act.