From strident rhetoric employed by partisans in the fight over voter identification laws, you’d think it was one of the most controversial debates in politics.
But a Gallup survey released Monday suggests it is not nearly as controversial among the general public: A whopping 80 percent of those surveyed support laws requiring voters to present ID before casting ballots.
“Since 2012, you’ll have a hard time finding any poll that does not show in the neighborhood of 75, 80 percent in favor of ID.”
The idea has near-unanimous support among Republicans; 95 percent support voter ID laws. But requiring a photo ID enjoys widespread support among independents (83 percent) and Democrats (63 percent), as well. Non-whites are only 4 percent less likely than whites to support photo ID. And majorities ranging from 73 percent to 84 percent favor it in various geographic regions.
The survey of 1,013 voters has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.
“Since 2012, you’ll have a hard time finding any poll that does not show in the neighborhood of 75, 80 percent in favor of ID,” said Logan Churchwell, a spokesman for the anti-fraud group True the Vote. “In the court of public opinion, voter ID has won.”
The issue is not being fought primarily in the court of public opinion, however — it is being waged in actual courts of law. Plaintiffs have targeted voter ID laws across the country, arguing that it discourages minorities and poor people from voting.
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But respondents of the Gallup poll disagree. Only 32 percent of those surveyed predicted that eligible voters not being allowed to cast ballots would be a “major problem” in the upcoming election. That was 4 points lower than concern over ineligible voters casting ballots. Democrats and minorities were more likely to view eligible voters being turned away from the polls as a major problem, but that view was less than 50 percent among all subgroups.
[lz_table title=”Support For Voter ID Laws” source=”Gallup”]Share of support for voter ID
“Despite widespread public support for early voting and voter ID laws — including majority support among partisans on both sides — the two parties’ leaders often have strong preferences for one and not the other,” Gallup’s Justin McCarthy wrote on the company’s website. “The political squabbling over efforts to pass or restrict these laws in many states is therefore not representative of public opinion.”
Churchwell said it is significant that photo ID laws draw support from large majorities of “all these classes of voters who are supposed to be hurt by voter ID.”
He said minority voters support photo ID because election fraud occurs disproportionately in jurisdictions dominated by minorities. Fraud rarely changes the outcome of national and statewide elections, but it can make a difference at the town council and school board level.
And the victims of that fraud are most commonly black candidates and voters, Churchwell said.
Churchwell added, black and Latino voters chafe at the “soft bigotry of law expectations” that presumes that poor or minority voters are incapable of complying with commonsense election rules. He said True the Vote set up information stations in majority-black polling places in Texas in 2014 to help voters understand the requirements of the new law.
The most common reaction was annoyance that people thought African-American voters needed special help, Churchwell said.
“‘Your intentions are pure,'” he said, describing feedback True the Vote received. “‘But we’re not idiots. We know how to follow a voter ID law.'”
Meanwhile, the legal battles rage on, with mixed results. A federal appeals court in Denver hears arguments Tuesday on a lower court ruling striking down a Kansas law requiring proof of citizenship when registering to vote at motor vehicle departments. Last week, a state judge in Oklahoma dismissed a legal challenge to a law — approved by voters with 74 percent of the vote — requiring every voter to show proof of identity.
An appeals court last month struck down North Carolina’s voter ID law, ruling that the state demonstrated “discriminatory intent” against blacks.
A judge in Texas this month agreed to allow citizens without a valid photo ID to cast ballots in November — as long as they present an alternate ID and sign an affidavit. And an appeals court this week refused to block a lower court ruling striking down parts of Wisconsin’s voter ID law.
Churchwell said opponents of photo ID laws have overstated their success in the courts. In most cases, he said, the rulings have required states to add additional safeguards for people who have trouble obtaining valid IDs.
“The reality is they set out to have these laws struck down,” he said. “They failed … They had to settle for a little better than a stalemate.”