“We have to make sure that this election is not stolen from us,” Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump said during a recent rally in Pennsylvania, “ Everybody knows what I’m talking about.” As the poll numbers tighten, both nationally and in key battleground states, Donald Trump has ratcheted up his claims that without voter ID laws, Democrats will flood the polls with people ready to “vote 15 times.” These claims are typical of what many Republicans have been asserting for more than a decade to justify severely restrictive voter ID laws now in effect across the nation. As first enacted, these laws restricted the number of acceptable photo IDs to a handful – usually no more than seven or eight – and deliberately excluded IDs most readily available to low-income and young people through public assistance agencies, colleges and public or private employees. Texas and Wisconsin even excluded military veteran IDs, but relented after veterans groups protested.
Despite their voter fraud claims, many Republicans are on record saying that these laws were actually intend to suppress the votes of minorities, young people, the poor, people with disabilities and others who tend to vote Democratic. The laws also create confusion among voters and poll workers, and offer local officials numerous opportunities for highly partisan actions. They even allow repetition of abuses the courts have already labeled as “racist.”
These laws serve no useful purpose. The fraud they are supposed to address – impersonating someone else at the polls – is virtually nonexistent. Yet almost all the restrictive laws, though ruled unlawful, will likely remain in effect during the 2016 election.