Courts in several states have ruled against strict voter identification laws over the past few weeks, offering something to celebrate for those who think such laws are discriminatory. “It’s been like Christmas Day,” Liz Kennedy, a staffer at the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank, told CNN.
Proponents of strict voter ID laws say they prevent voter fraud and create trust in elections. Opponents counter that such laws disproportionately keep poor and minority Americans from voting, and aren’t needed to prevent voter fraud—because fraud is very rare. The research tends to support the latter view, as ProPublica reported earlier this year. Most academic studies have found minorities to be those most affected by voter ID laws, and investigations have found few records of voter impersonation among the millions of votes cast in any year.
In their recent decisions, judges on the United States Circuit Court of Appeals have agreed with the academics. NPR describes the court’s thinking when it overturned a law in North Carolina last week:
The appeals court noted that the North Carolina Legislature “requested data on the use, by race, of a number of voting practices” — then, data in hand, “enacted legislation that restricted voting and registration in five different ways, all of which disproportionately affected African Americans.”
The changes to the voting process “target African Americans with almost surgical precision,” the circuit court wrote, and “impose cures for problems that did not exist.”