Voter ID laws create an unnecessary barrier to voting that disproportionately affects poor and nonwhite voters. If you’re going to have them, you should at least tell people that they’re going into effect. But given the impetus of these laws—to disenfranchise Democratic-leaning voters—it’s no surprise that few of the states that have passed them have made any effort to educate voters. Since 2010, 12 states have passed laws requiring voters to show government-issued identification in order to vote. One such law is Pennsylvania’s, where studies estimate anywhere from 780,000 to 1.2 million could be turned away at the polls on Election Day because of new ID requirements. A state court is expected to rule this week on whether the law can go forward, but in the meantime, many have blasted Pennsylvania’s anemic efforts to inform voters. Because the state originally estimated that far fewer voters would be affected, the plan was simply to remind those who turned out for the April primaries that they would need an ID next time around. The state also conducted a much-criticized PR campaign by a Republican-owned firm—during the court proceedings, a political scientist testified that one-third of Pennsylvania voters were unaware of the law.
The point of these laws is to decrease turnout among poor, nonwhite, young, and elderly voters—those more likely to vote Democratic—and thereby give Republicans an electoral advantage. Informing and preparing voters defeats the point. But conservative lawmakers are likely to keep pushing the laws, and voting-rights advocates could alleviate some of the harm by pushing for comprehensive plans to educate voters. Plus somewhere, a state might actually want to inform voters about what happened at the state capital. It all begs the question: What exactly would a good voter education campaign look like?
Georgia faced that question five years ago. As a state with a history of voter suppression, the Peach State must get precleared by the feds before it can implement changes to election law. After its voter ID law was approved by the Department of Justice during George W. Bush’s tenure (over objections by some in the department), the law then went to the federal courts, where a district judge granted an injunction and an appeals court upheld it. Among other things, the courts demanded the state do a better job informing voters of the change. Georgia got to work doing extensive voter outreach, launching a website about the requirements and placing ads on the Clear Channel radio network. Brochures and postcards went out to voters. Eventually, in 2007, the law went into effect.
Full Article: How to Get Out the Vote in a Voter ID World.