In the election news cycle yesterday and today, one of the stories has been about how smoothly picture I.D. voting has been going in the first statewide election since the law went into effect. On the one hand, state and county election officials report that there have been almost no problems at all. Married and divorced women have not been disproportionately turned away at the polls due to identification issues resulting from name changes, and there are no reports of widespread provisional voting or unprepared voters. The media take on this is that the Texas Democratic Party has lost traction and credibility on the issue of picture I.D. voting, arguably because the party oversold the potential that voters would be turned away at the polling places. The State of Texas and the U.S. Department of Justice might both cite improvements in the adminstration of picture I.D. requirements in Texas for this election – among other things, the State broadly expanded the number of entities authorized to issue photo i.d.s, and the Department of Justice might regard these improvements as attempts by the State to mitigate liabilities for civil rights violations in direct response to DOJ’s civil rights lawsuit over picture I.D.
A number of commentators have been careful to point out that the policy questions about the adoption of picture I.D. requirements for voting are clouded by political rhetoric from both sides of the political spectrum. On the left, there is probably a tendency to overstate the suppressive effect of picture I.D. laws in general. On the right, meanwhile, buzzwords like “security and election integrity” are chosen to justify picture i.d. laws on the basis of purely imaginary waves of election fraud.
Anecdote is poor evidence of systemic problems with elections, and it is unwise to rely on either individual reports of voter problems (“I had to vote provisionally because my name on my picture I.D. doesn’t exactly match my name, therefore picture I.D. suppresses voting.”) or the evident lack of such reports (“County voter registrars report that after two days of early voting, not a single person has called to complain or been turned away from voting due to an i.d. issue.”)