On the day after the United States of America celebrated its 236th birthday, television's (perhaps all time) most popular game show featured an eye opening Final Jeopardy clue for all of you fans of VOTER ID laws.
The category: Facts and Figures --With only 58 % of residents, this state has the lowest percentage of licensed drivers.That, obviously, got me to thinking. What does that number mean? Well, according to data reported by EACH STATE to the United States Department of Transportation,
Welcome to the Office of Highway Policy Information webpage. These pages serve as the repository of highway related data reported by the state, federal and local sources, and analyzed by FHWA into reports.A statistical abstract for Arizona shows that (for the most recent year for which data is presented) our state then (in 2009) had population of 6,595,778 with 4,403,390 of them licensed to drive. By itself, that means 66.76 percent of the population had driver licenses. Does that mean 33.24 percent of the population is being prevented from voting? Not necessarily. So, we have to look closer.
This table shows that New York actually reports that 72.4 percent of its driving age population is actually licensed to drive. For Arizona, 87.2 percent of the driving age population is actually licensed to drive.
In Arizona, the minimum age for obtaining a driver license (for typical passenger cars and motorcycles) is 16 years. The voting age, of course, is 18 years. So, in Arizona, is 12.8 percent (646,015) of the driving age population (5,046,993) not yet 18-years old?
According to CLRsearch, in 2010, the total number of Arizona residents age 12-17 was 572,044. Stated another way, of the number of driving age Arizonans (646,015), those not yet 18-years old is not more than 572,044. So, hypothetically, (at least) 73,971 Arizona residents of voting age could possibly be disenfranchised by virtue of not having a driver license.
The Brennan Center for Justice, part of the New York University's School of Law has studied the issue in-depth.
The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law is a non-partisan public policy and law institute that focuses on fundamental issues of democracy and justice. Our work ranges from voting rights to redistricting reform, from access to the courts to presidential power in the fight against terrorism. A singular institution—part think tank, part public interest law firm, part advocacy group—the Brennan Center combines scholarship, legislative and legal advocacy, and communications to win meaningful, measurable change in the public sector.
From the Brennan Center's report, The Truth About Voter Fraud (by Justin Leavitt):
We are not aware of any documented cases in which individual noncitizens have either intentionally registered to vote or voted while knowing that they were ineligible. Given that the penalty (not only criminal prosecution, but deportation) is so severe, and the payoff (one incremental vote) is so minimal for any individual voter, it makes sense that extremely few noncitizens would attempt to vote, knowing that doing so is illegal.
Although there are a few recorded examples in which noncitizens have apparently registered or voted, investigators have concluded that they were likely not aware that doing so was improper. In one highly publicized case, for example, noncitizens were given voter registration forms by a group helping them through the naturalization process, immediately after successfully completing citizenship interviews with federal officials and receiving letters beginning “Congratulations, your application for citizenship has been approved.” Though the actual swearing-in ceremonies were still up to 90 days away, these individuals most likely mistakenly thought it their obligation and privilege to complete the paperwork, and did not intentionally fabricate their citizenship status in front of federal officials who knew that they were noncitizens.Listen (less than a minute) to Paul Weyrich, co-founder of ALEC, on the subject of voting:
Now, hypothetically, what kind of difference could disenfranchising even 74,000 voters make in Arizona elections?
In 2010, the official general election canvass shows that Republican candidates for all but one statewide office won their races by more than 74,000 votes. 2010 was a Republican landslide election year. Republicans gained control of the U.S. House of Representatives because of it.
However, Tom Horne won his election against the Democrats' strongest Arizona candidate that year by 63,298 votes. How would Arizona's history over the last 18 months have been different had we elected Felicia Rotellini to be Attorney General?
The bald-faced intent of ALEC and the pushers of Voter ID laws in Arizona and throughout the country is to disenfranchise voters who would likely vote Democratic.
Levitt won’t comment on intent, but when he points to the “character of the electorate” most affected by the voter-ID viewed through this lens, intent is evident. Faced with an increase in minority populations—which tend to vote Democratic—Republican state legislatures are holding the future at bay.
The Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau, for example, found that 20 percent of Wisconsin’s residents do not now have the identification required to vote. That includes 70 percent of African-Americans under the age of 25, 177,000 elderly people, 36 percent of young voters, and approximately 224,000 college students whose student ID cards fail to meet their state’s new ID requirement. In brief: a lot of potential Democratic voters. Similar biases against minority voters can be found in every voter-suppression bill enacted across the country.While in Arizona, in 2010, we can easily speculate about the difference 74,000 voters can make in one statewide election, can you imagine the possible impact in a tight presidential race like we expect to have in 2012?
I don't have the ultimate answer to the fundamental questions, and will not be able to pin it down without significantly more time to do the research. However, I'm confident that there are FAR MORE people who have been and are going to be disenfranchised by the VOTER ID law than the number of people who allegedly have unlawfully voted because they are not US citizens.