The Voting Restriction Trifecta

The discussion of voter suppression methods and all the litigation over them often becomes confusing. So it’s a good thing that Bloomberg Politics has published a chart that visually depicts each state’s position on the three most common bars to voting: ID requirements, early voting opportunities, and “excuse” requirements for absentee voting.

Seven states hit the trifecta with photo ID requirements, no early voting, and “excuse required” rules for absentee voting: Alabama, Indiana, Michigan, Mississippi, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Virginia. I’d note that two of these states have reasons for their policies that aren’t strictly about partisan politics: NH has a vested interest in deifying election day, if only to mantaining the mystique of its presidential primary; and VA has an ancient tradition of discouraging voting by poor people of both races. It’s also important to note that not all of these restrictions are equal in impact: some states with photo ID requirements have worked to make it easier to acquire them while others haven’t; and there are also non-photo ID requirements in many other states that can pose difficulties.

In addition, there are a variety of voter suppression methods beyond the three targeted by Bloomberg Politics: difficult registration requirements; poorly staffed polling places (a Florida speciality) producing long wait-times for voting; last-minute changes in polling places that aren’t communicated to voters, as are common in Republican jurisdictions with large minority voting populations; and restrictive rules on voter errors. Then you get into the real skullduggery of voter intimidation and active disinformation.

The states deemed easiest for voters are all-mail-ballot and no-ID Oregon and Washington, though California, with its permanent mail-ballot registration and liberal early voting rules comes close. (Colorado moved to an all-mail-ballot system this year, but if you choose to show up in person to secure a ballot, you have to show ID).

Between these widely varying rules and the disproportionate resources being poured into voter turnout in selective states, we’ll probably see some big disparities in turnout rates. That will likely be an under-reported story on November 5.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.