It has long been an article of faith on the political left that Republicans win elections by disenfranchising certain voting blocs. We are told that requiring voters to present photo identification at polling places not only depresses minority turnout but is tantamount to racial discrimination. The evidence challenging these assumptions gets stronger with every passing election, but Democrats and most of the political press don’t seem to have noticed.
At an NAACP dinner in Detroit on Sunday, Sen. Kamala Harris told the audience that “voter suppression” in Georgia and Florida cost Democrats gubernatorial races in the 2018 midterm elections. “Let’s say this loud and clear,” said Ms. Harris, a Democratic presidential candidate. “Without voter suppression, Stacey Abrams would be the governor of Georgia. Andrew Gillum is the governor of Florida.”
A few days earlier, Ms. Abrams herself, apparently still bitter over her defeat, made a similar claim. “We had an architect of voter suppression that spent the last eight years knitting together a system of voter suppression that is unparalleled in America,” said Ms. Abrams in reference to her Republican opponent, Brian Kemp, a former Georgia secretary of state. “I’ve never seen a community of people work so hard to strip away our rights and our humanity as fast as they can.” But if mandating voter ID, removing inactive voters from registration rolls or limiting early voting harms minorities, where is the evidence?
It just so happens that two weeks ago the Census Bureau released a report on voter turnout in 2018, which climbed 11 percentage points from the last midterm election, in 2014, and surpassed 50% for the first time since 1982. Moreover, the increased turnout was largely driven by the same minority voters Democrats claim are being disenfranchised. Black turnout grew around 27%, and Hispanic turnout increased about 50%. An analysis of the census data published by the Pew Research Center found that “all major racial and ethnic groups saw historic jumps in voter turnout” last year.
None of this comes as news to anyone who pays attention to sober facts instead of inflammatory rhetoric. The black voter turnout rate for the most part has grown steadily since the 1990s. This has occurred notwithstanding an increase in state voter-ID requirements over the same period. In 2012 blacks voted at higher rates than whites nationwide, including in Georgia, which was one of the first states in the country to implement a photo-ID requirement for voting. Ms. Abrams claims that Republicans have been hard at work trying to disenfranchise black voters, but the reality is that black voter registration is outpacing white registration in the Peach State.
Nor is it at all clear that minority voters share the view of politicians and activists who have chosen to racialize a debate over ensuring the accuracy and integrity of U.S. elections. Ms. Harris may feel that identification requirements for banking and flying should not apply to voting, but most people don’t have a problem with them. In a 2016 Gallup poll, voter-ID laws were supported by 4 in 5 respondents, including 95% of Republicans, 63% of Democrats, 81% of whites and 77% of nonwhites. In a 2012 survey published by the Washington Post, approval was similarly broad and deep, with 78% of whites, 65% of blacks and 64% of Hispanics expressing support for voter ID laws. When will Democrats learn how to lose an election without playing the race card?
If more people from different backgrounds are participating in American democracy, this is progress. But what’s good for the country in that respect isn’t necessarily good for President Trump’s re-election prospects. In 2016, Mr. Trump won Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania—representing a combined 46 electoral votes—by less than a percentage point. If the Democratic nominee holds the states that Hillary Clinton won and flips those three, Mr. Trump is a one-term president.
Whether Mrs. Clinton fell short in the Rust Belt because blacks hadn’t forgiven her for challenging Barack Obama in 2008 or because they felt taken for granted and stayed home, we’ll never know for certain. But there’s a reason Democrats chose Milwaukee for their nominating convention in 2020. And if the 2018 midterms are any indication of what’s to come next year, Democratic turnout won’t be a problem.
The Democrats’ real fear is that people will vote their pocketbooks. Under Mr. Trump, working-class minorities in particular have experienced generational lows in unemployment and seen their wages grow at a faster clip than their supervisors’. The Wall Street Journal reported Monday that a new survey suggests the president is “making headway with select groups of Americans who disapprove of his job performance but are willing to credit him for a bustling economy, revealing a block of voters that his re-election campaign is likely to target in the coming months.” That frightens Democrats far more than any supposed “voter suppression” effort by their opponents.
The views expressed in opinion articles are solely those of the author and are not necessarily shared or endorsed by Black Community News.