A debate has reignited about whether voter ID laws suppress the Black vote after African Americans in Alabama turned out in high numbers–despite suppression efforts–to help elect U.S. Senator-elect Doug Jones, The New York Times reported. Expect the GOP to use that election as an excuse for enacting more voter suppression practices.
Alabama’s voter suppression efforts motivated scores of Black folks to vote, said LaTosha Brown, a founder of the Black Voters Matter Fund. “Historically and traditionally, there has been a strong voice of resistance to those that are undemocratic. I don’t think that this is new; I think that has always been the role that Black voters, particularly in the Deep South, have played,” she added.
African Americans represented about 30 percent of the voters who went to the polls for Alabama’s special election, and 96 percent of them voted for Jones. That happened despite the estimated 118,000 registered voters who were turned away because they didn’t have the government-issued photo identification required by Alabama law. That figure is in addition to voters who were subjected to other tricks the Republicans used, like creating an inactive voter status list.
There’s no doubt that Republicans in other states are looking at Alabama and planning to ramp up their voter suppression efforts. Their response to critics will be that voter ID requirements have no impact on people who are determined to cast a ballot. Republican-controlled state legislatures in 23 states have pass voter ID laws since 2010 under the guise of curbing voter fraud—which is practically nonexistent. Some of those state have also reduced early voting days or hours and restricted ex-felons from voting. Those practices disproportionately harm Black voters.
Some researchers argue that voter ID laws have little impact on election results, except in close races. Others disagree and contend that Alabama was an unusual election that drew national attention and funding for voter turnout efforts. In either case, one suppressed vote is one too many.