Democratic claims that a large number of Americans could be prevented from voting because of photo identification laws are probably overstated based on evidence from Georgia and Indiana, the two states where the laws have been in place for multiple elections, Reuters found. Data and numerous interviews by Reuters reporters also suggest there is little evidence to bolster Republican assertions that ID laws are needed to combat rampant voter fraud.
While some election officials and experts cautioned it was still too early to determine the impact of the laws, Reuters found higher voter turnout since they took effect in the two states; few people casting provisional ballots because they lacked IDs; and limited anecdotal evidence of people facing major obstacles in voting.
Both states have given out thousands of free state photo IDs to those without driver’s licenses, and both allow absentee voting as a way around the photo ID laws.
Photo ID laws have been hotly debated this year, with Attorney General Eric Holder calling them a “poll tax” during a speech in July to the NAACP, a reference to the late 19th and early 20th century laws in the South requiring poor blacks to pay a fee to vote. Some Democrats have voiced the fear that ID laws could cost President Barack Obama the election.
But the laws’ impact has been blunted by the courts, which have prevented four states – Texas, Wisconsin, South Carolina and Pennsylvania – from applying the laws this year. Eleven states have some form of photo ID law in effect this year, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, but only Florida and New Hampshire are considered swing states.