Nikki Haley defends voter ID laws as “not racist,” ignoring overwhelming evidence

At the National Press Club earlier today, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley reportedly asserted that voter ID laws are “not racist.” Because apparently she hasn’t ever Googled “disparate impact test.”

This, or course, willfully ignores the fact that voter ID laws, along with the other items on the laundry list of voting restrictions that have been passed by exclusively Republican politicians, are really, really, really racist.

South Carolina’s voter ID law, in particular, was racist enough to get it blocked by the Department of Justice. According to the agency, minority voters in the state were 20 percent less likely than white voters to have the types of ID required under the law. So even if the law was written with racially-neutral language, it carried racially disparate effects. And as the Supreme Court ruled earlier this year, when considering whether a law should be invalidated due to race, that’s the only standard you need to apply.

Nikki Haley, via Gage Skidmore / Flickr

Nikki Haley, via Gage Skidmore / Flickr

For her part, Haley has tried to remake herself as a Republican bridge to African-American voters in the wake of the Charleston shooting, coming out forcefully against the Confederate flag after having previously defending it. Her reversal on the flag stoked speculation about a possible vice presidential bid, since any Republican doing anything that can be construed as anti-racist is now considered a big multicultural deal in GOP circles.

But while symbols like the Confederate flag do matter, policies matter more. As long as Republicans defend laws that have been demonstrated to, to a statistically significant degree, keep black and brown voters from the polls at higher rates than their white counterparts, they are going to continue to alienate those voters.

Because you can’t say “we want you to vote for us” without “we want you to vote.”

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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