Voter ID

Do Voter ID Laws Suppress Minority Turnout? A Soho Forum Debate

NYU's Eliza Sweren-Becker debates Hans von Spakovsky of The Heritage Foundation


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Do voter identification laws ensure secure and trustworthy elections, or are they a way for political parties to manipulate the democratic process in their favor? 

At a September 8th debate in New York City hosted by the Soho Forum, Eliza Sweren-Becker from NYU's Brennan Center for Justice, argued that state legislators are using arbitrary rules to suppress the voting rights of vulnerable citizens.

The Heritage Foundation's Hans von Spakovsky countered that these rules are necessary to guarantee that every vote cast is valid, noting that in states where voter ID laws already exist, registration rates have risen.

This was an Oxford-style debate, in which the audience voted before and after the event to see which side swayed more people. It was moderated by Soho Forum Director Gene Epstein.

Narrated by Nick Gillespie. Edited by John Osterhoudt. Live production by The Sheen Center.

Photo: Erica Price/Sipa USA/Newscom; Stephen Zenner/ZUMAPRESS/Newscom; Event Photos by Brett Raney; Anthony Behar/Sipa USA/Newscom; Jay Janner/TNS/Newscom

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  1. No comments? Well we all know the answer.

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    2. It’s only a problem for voter fraud.

      Case closed.

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  3. TL:DW spoiler: Spakovsky “won”.

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    1. It drives me nuts that the authors of these articles never report the results of the debate. It’s worse in this case because this is the second Reason article about this one debate and they still made that mistake.

      For the two people who didn’t see it the first time, this was an Oxford-style debate in which the audience is polled before and after the debate. The winner is the person who converted the most votes.

      Resolution: Legislators in multiple states are actively working to make it harder for Americans to vote.

      Yes went from 31% to 44% – a gain of 13 percentage points.
      However, No had a gain of 18 percentage points. von Spakovsky won the debate.

  4. No. Otherwise we wouldn’t be allowing vaccine mandates. Jesus I could win this debate by phoning it in.

  5. No.

    They spent an hour to say that?

  6. If the question is whether voter ID laws DO suppress voter turnout (minority or otherwise), well, that is an empirical question.

    But if the question is whether voter ID laws COULD suppress voter turnout (minority or otherwise), then that strongly depends on how the laws are implemented.

    Voter ID laws, in a vacuum, are simply regulations imposed by the state on citizens that they must abide by before being permitted to cast a legal ballot. Everyone here understands that those with the most resources are most able to handle the burdens associated with government regulations. And voter ID requirements are no different. Those with means can easily meet the demands of such regulations, those with lesser means have a more difficult time doing so.

    Voting is a right of all legal citizens of age 18 or older, and as such, the state should make it as easy as possible to cast a vote, while also minimizing fraud. So voter ID requirements are fine, AS LONG AS we also recognize that those with lesser means will have a greater difficulty in meeting the requirement, and therefore the state should go out of its way to help eligible voters to meet this requirement. Instead of making citizens jump through hoops to meet the state’s requirements, why not put the burden on the state to go to citizens where they are to help them meet these requirements?

    Let me be clear: For legal citizens who are at least 18 years old, VOTING IS NOT A PRIVILEGE THAT MUST BE EARNED. Voting is a right that they are entitled to, and the state should facilitate the exercise of that right rather than hinder it.

    1. And before any of my usual ankle-biters say anything:

      I strongly support voter ID laws. It is just common sense. If one were to redesign our voting system from the ground up, it would be a no-brainer to use a type of ID like a voter ID card for identity verification. I don’t think there is a reasonable argument against voter ID *in principle*.

      What I object to is using voter ID as a cynical weapon against particular voters if they are implemented stupidly or without much thought.

      1. Useless argument. Voting is all in our past now.

        1. It is? Since when?

          1. Since the secretarys of state illegally changed voting laws in numerous states that expand mail in ballots, send out unsolicited ballots, and removed all chain of custody requirements like signature matching, address verification, and postmark dating.

            Our votes are nothing but undocumented, unverifiable, no chain of custody, blank pieces of paper that anyone can fill out with anything at this point. They may as well start accepting hallmark cards with peoples votes written inside because our current mail in ballot system is even less secure. At least Xmas cards are postmarked and have return addresses.

            1. The rule of law is over. Time to acknowledge that and get rid of the progs.

            2. You need to take some time and learn about voting and ballet handling, because it is clear you know nothing about the subject.

        2. Voting is irrelevant…when the govt class has enough people on the dole/payroll elections don’t matter….they just don’t anymore. We don’t have a republic either..but a one party state run by elites with sham elections..time for a national divorce.

      2. Get the fuck over yourself. You don’t have anklebiters, people regularly point out the massive flaws in your arguments, and your habit of lying.

      3. The primary challenge is that we are unwilling to prespecify how much voter fraud is acceptable as well as how many people just aren’t going to be able to overcome even a trivial barrier.

        Instead we have goals of zero barriers vs zero fraud. Meanwhile we have people who claim there is no voter fraud and those who claim ID requirements are not a barrier.

        Those positions are irreconcilable. Especially if you believe it is an existential crisis if one bozo politician sometime somewhere claims a seat that might otherwise have gone to a different bozo politician.

        1. It matters if that seat is in the Oval Office.

          And getting ID doesn’t seem to be a barrier for anything else — driving, going to the library, buying a gun, signing up for electricity or welfare or Social Security.

          Zero voter fraud should be a readily achievable goal.

          1. Based on the Heritage Foundations own numbers fraud, while it exists, is statistically zero.

        2. “The primary challenge is that we are unwilling to prespecify how much voter fraud is acceptable…”

          This is pretty easy. Any voter fraud is acceptable as long as our team wins.

    2. Chemjeff. I will agree with you. However, I will also argue that having a government-issued photo ID is not a meaningful burden. By law, it is free of charge, and the requirement to appear in person once every 7-14 years is not burdensome. Even a substantial fraction of the homeless have ID.

      Secondly, everyone who participates in society on any meaningful level has one. It is literally illegal to open a bank account without photo ID. It’s illegal to fly on an airplane, apply for credit, and even touring an apartment is impossible without photo ID. The only person that I know personally who no longer has a valid government photo ID is a nursing-home-bound relative, who is exempt from the law. Every other man and woman I know has a valid government issued ID (at least, I presume, from the fact that they all drive).

      Therefore, I argue that a photo ID burden is no greater, and is, indeed, a lesser burden than showing up on voting day.

      Given that we have had this debate for nearly 20 years, and I have seen no empirical evidence that there is an effect, despite this being a major talking point of academia and the Democratic party, I would have to say that no study has found one. This agrees with our theoretical statement I made above above.

      You can’t live without ID in our modern society. If there is a substantial group who doesn’t have one, then activists would better serve them by working to get them ID rather than give them the smallest perk that an ID can bring.

      1. Chemjeff. I will agree with you.

        Thank you.

        However, I will also argue that having a government-issued photo ID is not a meaningful burden.

        “Meaningful” is in the eye of the beholder.

        By law, it is free of charge, and the requirement to appear in person once every 7-14 years is not burdensome.

        That depends. In my state, ID must be renewed every 4 years, and there is still a cost in terms of time spent to get an ID, even if there is no monetary charge for the ID.

        Even a substantial fraction of the homeless have ID.

        Good for them! They get to vote.

        Secondly, everyone who participates in society on any meaningful level has one. It is literally illegal to open a bank account without photo ID.

        By some estimates, 7% of households are completely unbanked, meaning they have no bank account at all. Assuming they have individuals who are legal citizens over age 18, they have a right to vote as well, even if they don’t have bank accounts.

        It’s illegal to fly on an airplane, apply for credit, and even touring an apartment is impossible without photo ID.

        Legal citizens over 18 still have the right to vote even if they don’t fly in airplanes, don’t have credit, or don’t rent an apartment.

        The only person that I know personally…

        I do not care about your anecdote. Sorry not sorry.

        Therefore, I argue that a photo ID burden is no greater, and is, indeed, a lesser burden than showing up on voting day.

        Who says voters have to show up in person on voting day? This is another burden on voters. Again, why should citizens be jumping through hoops for the benefit of the state? Why not the other way around? The state should make it as easy as possible to vote while also minimizing fraud.

        Given that we have had this debate for nearly 20 years, and I have seen no empirical evidence that there is an effect,

        In part this is a measurement problem. The people who don’t vote because they cannot surpass the regulations associated with voting, no matter how minimal they may seem to you and me, are simply not counted as being deterred because of those regulations. We never know about the businesses that are never started because of onerous government regulations. It is the same here. We never know about the eligible voters who never vote because of regulations that are onerous TO THEM.

        You can’t live without ID in our modern society.

        That is factually not true, and the right to vote extends to all legal citizens over age 18, not just those who fit in to modern society.

        1. So much text that no one will ever read. Because they know who you are.

          1. I admit to glancing at it and the remembering his penchant for deceit, sophistry, and his underlying leftism. So I moved on.

        2. Jeff. You have some points. Yes, there is a measurement problem about determining who doesn’t have ID. We are measuring a negative concerning people who are effectively invisible to our society. On the other hand, if a person cannot obtain any form of housing, employment, or travel anywhere without photographic ID, I have to question any and all statistics that claim it’s a widespread problem.

          The “employment” is a major one, which I forgot in my first post. I would say the right to earn a living is one of the few rights MORE important than voting. However, every job I have ever had requires photographic ID in order to receive any wages. Is this some horrible evil? What about transportation in greater than 75% of the country, where cars are mandatory?

          Then, please don’t forget, there are other requirements for voting.
          1: Registration. You must either be able to read or write or know someone enough to read or write to fill out a voter registration form.
          3: Pay enough attention to know that an election is taking place.
          4: Transport to poll/request for absentee ballot
          5: Most importantly, you must care sufficiently to learn how to vote, perform the proper registration, and then cast the vote

          All of these burdens are non-zero (and number 5 disqualifies a shockingly large fraction of people). Are these burdens significant enough to count as disqualifying? Well, no. After all, eliminating any of them is either impossible or poses impossible risks that would make fraud trivial (such as mass mailing of ballots or forgoing registration).

          To compare, voter ID is the bare minimum of security. Without this, no meaningful security is possible (aside from workarounds like in-person only and indelible ink stamps to prevent double-voting). We have recently had significant loss of confidence in the vote, and we KNOW that at least some elections have been undermined by fraud. Why would we undermine our currently minimal levels of security further?

          In the end, we are talking about a qualitative measurement. Does the benefit justify the minor burden? This is a judgement call, but I cannot agree with you. Anyone who refuses to participate in society to the point that they have no identification won’t vote anyway.

          1. There are lots of people who get paid in cash for manual labor.

            We might require an ID to open a bank account, but it’s not required that the ID be renewed.

            I don’t need a government ID to live with my parents.

            I’m not convinced that we shouldn’t require a government ID or that making it easier would actually bridge the gap, but we should recognize that there are lots of people who lack ID for a variety of reasons. And we need to be serious about whether and how to address them.

            1. Lots of people?

              As Ben has stated, id’s are free. Lots of non profits will provide free rides almost anywhere, including to drivers license centers. Where you can get a non driver state ID. If you don’t have proper documents various state authorities and hospitals can email, fax, mail, or provide for pickup, birth certificates, social security numbers, etc.

              And you say you can live with your parents with no ID, but can you really? I guess if you don’t smoke, drink the same exact booze as your parents, never plan on going on a date, never want to fly, never want to drink booze in public, never want to travel, never want to open any kind of account, never want to go see a movie above pg13, never want to buy a gun or ammo, never want leave your parents house…

              And most importantly, you must never want to go to any restaurant, bar, theater, or public place in any city or state that requires vaccine passports because how else are they going to verify if your passport is real?

        3. That is factually not true, and the right to vote extends to all legal citizens over age 18, not just those who fit in to modern society.
          If you can’t fit into modern society, you have no say in how it is run.

          1. I am also reminded of a family friend who served for decades as a poll translator in Oklahoma. I think she spoke Sioux. Her job was to translate for any tribesmen who wanted to vote but didn’t speak English. Her services were never used, even though she was required to be there.

            Quite simply. Any tribesmen who didn’t care enough about the wider world to learn the Lingua Franca of this country also had no interest in voting. Anyone who wanted to vote knew at least enough English to register and fill out their ballot themselves.

            1. Please tell me you recognize the irony of using a native American’s lack of English as an excuse to deny him a vote.

              1. That’s not what he did. He basically said native Americans are more capable and self sufficient than the retards complaining about voter Id.

          2. “ If you can’t fit into modern society, you have no say in how it is run.”


        4. The ‘voter ID is racist’ argument is generally limited to resentment culture types in post-industrial nations. Have you parsed through the ID requirements for other nations, before deciding that presenting proof that one is whom one claims to be is a sinister racist plot? As for your modern society argument, I suspect that you will not extend this line of thinking when the issue doesn’t fit into one of the approved beliefs that your in-group holds.

          1. Voter id requirements have a disparate impact on poor people who are more likely to lack transportation and free time during government hours.

            I can pop over to the DMV in my company car at my convenience and my employer won’t care. I am led to believe this arrangement is not universal.

            1. There’s no lack of transportation. Numerous non profits provide free public transportation to people less fortunate.

              And anyone with a job or children has less free time during government hours. We all still vote.

    3. “Let me be clear: For legal citizens who are at least 18 years old, VOTING IS NOT A PRIVILEGE THAT MUST BE EARNED. Voting is a right that they are entitled to, and the state should facilitate the exercise of that right rather than hinder it.”

      …nice to know that voting is vital but having a job, going outside, etc are not vital.

      COVID mandates are killing your inane argument against these laws.

    4. Why not count proof of vaccination as ID?

  7. Requiring voter ID could impede various ballot harvesting schemes that Democrats employ, and is therefore immoral.

    1. We call that “fortifying” elections now.

  8. I wonder if Mexico and Canada feel suppressed for not letting their nation just stuff our election ballot box.

    I’m pretty sure China isn’t feeling suppressed anymore since they were ‘updating’ our voting systems during the election.

    Trump Tariffs – China IPs on our voting system logs….

    Hmmmm….. Geez 20% of amateur households know how to block a foreign IP address. Maybe China won’t be on our systems now that they’ve learned the Nazi’s aren’t going to subsidize their market either. So I’ve heard.

  9. Now do restrictions on the right to bear arms.

    1. Voter ID requirements should be identical to those for buying and carrying a gun.

      The only counter argument is that non citizens also have a right to self defense.

  10. Funny but our local school board and budget election you had to show up at the high school and show an ID. I asked why and they said to ensure not fraud. I asked about sending mail in ballots due to covid and they laughed..when I asked one of the “helpers” who was a Teachers Union rep he said “we always get our people out..the PTA moms and their friends, the teachers and folks who get the contracts..we don’t want to make it easy for the other side to actually win a school board election or force budget cuts”. This year two people ran to cut spending and get rid of CRT…both were attacked by the educational lobby and defeated..

    So if I have to show a fucking ID for my school board election we all damn better for a Presidential election you fucking wokes..go back to NYC or Russia you fucking commie piece of shit.

      1. As does every European country except GB (and it will have soon). Maybe the distinction is these countries have not been able yet to reduce part of their voting population to helpless dependency.

  11. I got emails from the National Libertarian Party complaining about how New York State responded to the electoral success of the Larry Summers campaign by massively increasing the signature requirement for third party candidates to get on the ballot. New York elected officials did this while the Dems were crying a river over Georgia’s new voting laws, but the mainstream media never covered it.

    1. I grew up in the Rochester area..NY State is a corrupt crony state run by assholes from should not be surprised. This is the State that elects essentially Troytsky (Schumer) and someone with very low IQ to the US Senate

  12. The requirement to show a Photo ID is not considered a burden for practically everything having to do with Government and while conducting our daily lives.

    Adding a requirement to show a Photo ID should not be considered a burden an is insulting to many people to assume that it is too difficult for them to acquire a Photo ID.

    The reality is the trend over the past several decades is a loss of confidence in the validity of our electoral processes. Many citizens refuse to participate in what they call sham elections. Democrats refused to acknowledge Bush’s win, Trump’s win and Republicans who refuse to acknowledge Biden’s win.

    There is a refusal of the elected officials who win to investigate corruption and fraud. The courts refuse to hear cases and basically do not want to be involved. The situation is getting worse not better.

    There are parts of the country where electoral fraud is assumed. Voter roles are not cleaned up and people who moved years ago still get mailed ballots and the Postal Service has even forwarded the mail in ballot to them in another state.

    There are obviously issues and a lack of confidence. The simple action of presenting a Photo ID will assist restoring some degree of confidence. Putting some modicum of control surrounding mail in ballots are necessary. With COVID-19 a lot of rules were changed and as a result there was a large increase in the number of votes tallied.

    There are aspects of the election cycle that appear fishy. There should be a full and honest investigation of the election and the rules. This does not mean that the outcome would be any different.

    Many red states have passed new bills regarding election law and have been pilloried in the press. The vast majority of the laws were simply resetting election law back to pre-covid status instead of the lax rules imposed by officials who didn’t have the authority to set the rules.

    1. I shouldn’t need an ID to buy beer, get on a plane, buy a gun, or vote.

      Government should have to prove I’m not who I say I am, prove I’m ineligible, or get out of my life.

      1. Finally, a libertarian.

      2. Do explain exactly how, “Government should have to prove I’m not who I say I am” ….. when you have no ID? DNA-Testing which is actually just another form of ID?

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  14. They certainly tend to suppress the votes of people who lack IDs. If the ID costs any money or effort, that is definitionally a poll tax.

    1. I think suppressing the ILLEGAL and ANONYMOUS votes is exactly the POINT of election integrity…

      But don’t let common-sense gloss over your idiocy banner.

    2. Citizens should have a right to a free ID to vote and that should included costs to get the ID. So I will accept IDs if there is agreement that the recipient can recoup reasonable costs for getting the ID. This should include transportation costs to and from the DMV, cost to get government documents to get the ID (like copy of BC) and for workers up to 3 hours of lost wages.

      1. Sounds like a perfectly fine compromise to me.

        The government and private sector know more about us than was even physically possible 20 years ago. Privacy isn’t a thing anymore, only rights.

  15. Is there dictator fraud? Can a dictator act fraudulently? Isn’t every dictatorial decree fraud, i.e., based on violence, threats, and not a right to rule? If you say, “YES”, I am sovereign, meaning my rights are inalienable and no one has the right to violate my rights.
    Fine. I agree. Then, does anyone have the right to choose a rep to violate your rights? Can you delegate an authority you do not have? Of course not. Then, do voters pick a ruler, possibly a dictator, who is your ruler, your dictator? Or is that “voter fraud”?

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