Photo ID’s .02% Impact on Wisconsin

One of the stunners in what has been described, repeatedly, by the media as Donald Trump’s stunning victory over Hillary Clinton November 8 was the GOP nominee carrying the state of Wisconsin. Ronald Reagan last accomplished the feat in 1984 and Democrats are attempting to blame Wisconsin’s Photo ID requirement to vote for breaking their 32-year-old winning streak.

In fact, Wisconsin glowed bright red the morning after the election. U.S. Senator Ron Johnson scored a surprise win over Democrat Russ Feingold in holding his senate seat. Republican Mike Gallagher cruised to an even easier than expected victory over Democrat Tom Nelson in the 8th Congressional District and Republicans grew their majorities in the State Assembly and Senate.

Given that Badger state red tsunami, Democrat claims that photo ID deprived large numbers of Wisconsinites of their right to vote deserve serious examination.

This narrative took flight the day after Election Day when journalist Dan Arel tweeted that 300,000 people in Wisconsin were turned away from polling places because they lacked a valid ID.

Arel was referring to an article in “The Nation” that quoted a federal court as saying that 300,000 registered voters lacked a form of ID necessary to vote. That number, quoted long before election day, reflected the number of people at that time who would have to procure a valid photo ID to vote. There is no way of knowing how many did or did not ultimately obtain the required ID and voted. Snopes.com labeled Arel’s clam unproven. But a number released from election officials earlier this week establishes that Arel’s claim that 300,000 people were “turned away” is patently false.

This Wisconsin Election Commission reported Monday that at least 590 voters were given provisional ballots, because they didn’t present a valid ID. That number may grow, but at the moment it reflects roughly .02 percent of the 2.94 million votes cast in Wisconsin’s presidential election. 300,000, on the other hand, would represent just more than 10%.  Of course, it’s unknown exactly how many people chose to leave polling places when they learned they didn’t have a valid ID, or chose not to bothering trying to vote in the first place. However, voters who, for whatever reason, chose not to vote are not voters who were “turned away.” In fact, even the 590 voters cited by the state weren’t turned away. They could cast provisional ballots and had until the Friday after Election Day to return with a valid photo ID so their vote would count.

Researchers at UW-Madison are embarking on a research effort to determine how many registered voters never made it to the polls due to the state’s photo ID law. UW-Madison political science professor Ken Mayer is leading that effort. Mayer, an opponent of the photo ID requirement,  has served as an expert witness for opponents of the voter ID law in lawsuits challenging it.

It is worth noting that Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chairperson, Martha Laning, did not mention the photo ID requirement in a letter to fellow Democrats. She did, however, say they would learn from their mistakes:

We are going to do a deep dive into this race. What went wrong, what we did well, and what we need to change. Our administrative committee, congressional and county party leadership, our candidates, candidate’s staff and volunteers will all be represented in the process. We are committed to learning from our mistakes and working together to make the changes necessary to win.

Only time will tell if the forensic analysis Laning promises will determine that the state’s photo ID requirement to vote was a primary factor in her party’s massive defeat November 8. But for the moment the most measurable evidence; what actually happened at the polls, suggests that the impact was statistically insignificant in two statewide races.