Thanks to new laws passed by Republicans, 1.28 million votes that were cast in the 2012 presidential election won’t be cast in 2016.
That’s because, of the 12 states considered up for grabs in 2016, four—Virginia, North Carolina, Wisconsin, and Ohio—have passed onerous new voter suppression laws, which disproportionately affect communities of color and other Democratic constituencies.
For example, in North Carolina, the Republican-controlled legislature and Republican governor eliminated early voting days. In 2012, 900,000 voters cast their ballots during the early voting window. In 2016, that number will be zero.
The motive is clear: In 2012, 48 percent of North Carolina’s early voters were registered Democrats and 32 percent were registered Republicans, an edge of 140,000 Democratic voters. Mitt Romney won the state by just 92,004 votes in 2012 after Barack Obama carried the state in 2008. In other words, banning early voting could keep this swing state in the Republican column this November.
The Republican lawmakers suppressing voters have had help from Republican-appointed Supreme Court justices.
The Court’s 2013 decision in Shelby County v. Holder made it easier for states to make voting harder. Virginia quickly took advantage, passing a strict Voter identification law, which would disqualify the 200,000 voters in the state who lack photo ID. They, too, skew Democrat: the American Civil Liberties Union estimates that 25 percent of African American citizens lack a government-issued photo ID, compared to just 8 percent of whites. Low-income and elderly voters are also disproportionately affected.
Thirty states require ID of some kind to vote and 15 states require the ID have a photo. But unlike most of those other states, Virginia is one of the twelve swing states that will probably determine the outcome of the presidential election.
And it, too, could swing for a Republican over a Democrat because of voter suppression laws. If three times as many blacks lack photo IDs than whites, that’s roughly 150,000 black voters disenfranchised. In 2012, Obama won the state by 149,298 votes.
Backers of stricter eligibility to vote say these laws are essential to prevent fraud. But Dale Ho, Director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, says that excuse doesn’t wash.
“We’ve litigated over Voter ID laws in a number of states—Indiana, Pennsylvania, Washington, North Carolina,” Ho told The Daily Beast. “In none of those states were government officials able to point to a single instance of in-person voter impersonation happening.
“But in every case we’ve had we’ve identified tens of thousands of people who don’t have photo IDs. It’s a no-brainer from a cost-benefit analysis. There’s no evidence of voter fraud and plenty of evidence of disenfranchisement.”