Like chickens in a bell jar


Pretty soon Republicans won’t need to insist voters present photo identity cards at the polls. The will have trained “wrong thinking people” not to try. The New York Times reported on studies indicating how that works: people confused about how the ID laws work simply stay home:

“What voters hear is that you need to have an ID,” said Mark P. Jones of the Baker Institute, an author of the study. “But they don’t get the second part that says if you have one of these types of IDs, you’re O.K.”

Representative Pete Gallego, a Texas Democrat, lost his 2014 reelection bid by just 2,422 votes. This year he is asking voters if they have a driver’s license.

After Mr. Gallego’s narrow loss in 2014, researchers from the Baker Institute and the University of Houston’s Hobby Center for Public Policy polled 400 registered voters in the district who sat out the election. All were asked why they did not vote, rating on a scale of 1 to 5 from a list of seven explanations — being ill, having transportation problems, being too busy, being out of town, lacking interest, disliking the candidates and lacking a required photo identification.

Nearly 26 percent said the main reason was that they were too busy. At the other end, 5.8 percent said the main reason was lacking a proper photo ID, with another 7 percent citing it as one reason. Most surprising, however, was what researchers found when they double-checked that response: The vast majority of those who claimed not to have voted because they lacked a proper ID actually possessed one, but did not know it.

Moreover, Dr. Jones of the Baker Institute said, “The confused voters said they would have voted overwhelmingly for Gallego.”

The Times cites researcher Zoltan L. Hajnal (whom we have mentioned before) whose studies indicate “We’re finding typically that strict voter ID laws double or triple the gap in turnout between whites and nonwhites.” That paper is here.

Charlie Pierce casts a jaundiced eye on the excuse that these laws are needed to combat fraud:

But the most pungent of these flavors has been the technique of requiring the ID, and then either making the ID almost impossible to acquire or failing to inform the voters what kind of ID they need. In both cases, if things work the way they’re designed to work, enough of the voters you’re trying to screw out of their franchise just give up and stay home. Then, when the election comes out the way you want it to come out, you can shake your head sadly at how lazy said voters are. After a couple of election cycles, the frustration sets in generally and the people you don’t want involved in government remove themselves from it. Then you get to write earnest op-eds wondering where civic engagement has gone.

There is that (apocryphal?) story about a chicken raised inside a bell jar. When one day researchers removed the jar, the chicken continued to walk around in circles as though the glass barrier were still in place. Republicans hope to raise vast numbers of minority voters inside bell jars against the day when these ID laws fall. But by then said voters will have internalized the limits to their citizenship and keep walking in circles.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

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