Virginia GOP could suppress 2% of the vote this November

This November’s general election will be the first in Virginia conducted under the state’s new voter ID law — one of the strictest in the nation — which requires a photo ID in order to cast a ballot. Drivers licenses are the most common form of accepted ID.

On Thursday, the Washington Post reported that nearly 200,000 active registered voters in Virginia don’t have a drivers license. Virginia has 4.8 million active registered voters. Divide 200,000 by 4.8 million and you get just over four percent.

On Friday, Virginia state senator Mark Obenshain (R – Harrisonburg) penned a response in PJ Media that recalculated the figure excluding military, overseas and federal-only voters to cut the figure roughly in half, coming up with 93,117. So we can say with confidence that a, pardon the pun, conservative estimate of the figure is around two percent.

Mark Obenshain.

Mark Obenshain.

But while Obenshain could be right when he argues that the new law only affects two percent of the electorate, that’s still a HUGE number in electoral politics. And Obenshain should know: had Virginia’s photo ID law been in effect last year, keeping even two hundred eligible voters from casting ballots (to say nothing of 200,000), he’d be the state’s attorney general right now.

Additionally, the gubernatorial contest in Virginia was decided by 56,435 votes, or just over 2.5 percent of that year’s electorate.

Two percent is the benchmark figure that field campaigns use to measure success. If a campaign executes its get-out-the-vote (GOTV) program effectively, it can be expected to outperform the polls by about two percent by turning out people who otherwise wouldn’t vote.

So when you pass a law that makes it harder for at least two percent of the electorate to cast ballots, and a disproportionally Democratic two percent at that, you’ve already matched the Election Day efforts of even the best political operations.

The Post‘s report and Senator Obenshain’s response only put more numbers behind what we already knew about this new batch of photo ID laws set to go into effect in a number of states this November: They are nothing more than the Republicans’ keep-in-the-vote program; a program that’s been executed brilliantly across the country.

Similar ID laws have already swung the outcomes of more elections than the statistically nonexistent voter impersonation fraud they are designed to prevent. While I’m not worried about the state’s senate race this year, there’s a good chance that a handful of down-ballot Republicans will win races by two percent or less. If and when that happens, they’ll have anti-democratic jerks like Mark Obenshain to thank.


Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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13 Responses to “Virginia GOP could suppress 2% of the vote this November”

  1. ComradeRutherford says:

    Suppressing the vote is crucial for the GOP to win elections nowadays. Republicans can never, ever win any election on the merits of their arguments and they know it.

  2. Naja pallida says:

    You can apply for an amended birth certificate without another form of ID, but it isn’t exactly a quick or easy process. Often it requires an affidavit from someone who has known you since birth, or a relative who can attest to your birth date. Or some other secondary sources, church records, family bible, etc. They did this sort of thing all the time for people born before civil registration became standard. For most states, if you were born before the mid 1920s, chances are there was no requirement for you to be registered or be issued a birth certificate. Many people had to apply after the fact, especially once they wanted to get Social Security.

    One would probably have to go in person to the appropriate state office to learn the necessary procedure – as I’m sure every state is different. Then you’d have to find someone there who knows the process, because the general clerk who has never dealt with that kind of thing probably doesn’t have a clue. In some cases it might even have to be decided by a judge. No matter how you look at it though, it’s a pile of red tape that I can’t imagine anyone would want to deal with unless they absolutely had to. It’s all obviously designed to discourage voting, which is appalling at any level.

  3. Nicholas A Kocal says:

    they have been bragging in public that these voter ID laws will help republicans win.

  4. BeccaM says:

    What we need in the longer run isn’t people who acquiesce with the Voter ID red tape, but those who will remove it entirely, for everyone.

  5. Indigo says:

    I’ve heard of incidents like that before. It seems to me it has to be possible to help folks like that out even though, personally, I have no idea where to begin. Red tape is there to be cut, after all. Sometimes it takes very well placed people to cut it, but that’s what activists are here for, imho.

  6. BeccaM says:

    These mandatory photo ID to vote laws are a poll tax, pure and simple.

    It’s bad enough there’s no federal holiday for elections, but there’s not a state in the nation where it isn’t Republicans passing these laws to address voter fraud which isn’t happening, all for the blatantly obvious purpose of suppressing likely Democratic voters.

    Sure, we need to fight to get IDs into the hands of voters who don’t have them. But we also need to stop fighting a defensive line against these unnecessary, anti-democratic (small-d) neo-Jim Crow voter suppression laws. I want to see progressive candidates out there arguing not just against the passage of these laws, but for repeal where the GOPers have managed to pass them.

  7. BeccaM says:

    I saw a story the other day about an elderly woman who could not get a photo ID because she didn’t have a ‘valid’ birth certificate (name discrepancy, which is far more common than people might think). And she couldn’t get a corrected birth certificate because she didn’t have a valid photo ID.

  8. Demosthenes says:

    Astonishing! I bet they brag in private how this helps their “team”.

  9. MyrddinWilt says:

    The GOP make that as hard as possible as well.

    PhotoID actually provides almost no useful data other than the fact that it is difficult to get so most people don’t bother to get one unless necessary and it is never necessary to have more than one unless you are doing the sort of stuff that would make voting with one incredibly stupid and unlikely.

    In person ballot fraud is negligible. Its the postal ballot that has the issues. The matrons of nursing homes who fill in all the inmate’s ballots for the conservative etc.

  10. Badgerite says:

    The numbers make it rather transparent to all, apparently, but the federal courts, just how much these new voter ID laws are about voter suppression and nothing else.

  11. Rambie says:

    Or both, help voters get the IDs while still working to repeal these overly-restrictive voter ID laws.

  12. Quilla says:

    Can a poll tax be far behind?

    Seriously, I am so ashamed to be living in Virginia…

  13. Indigo says:

    Or you could get a campaign started to help potential voters get a photo ID.

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