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Expert Brief

When Politicians Tell the Truth on Voting Restrictions

When lawmakers passed new voting requirements, particularly voter ID laws, they claimed it was to safeguard against voter fraud and protect election integrity. But occasionally we have seen politicians slip — and reveal a more strategic motive.

Published: August 10, 2016

This year, voters in 14 states will go to the polls with new voting restrictions in place for the first time in a presidential election. When lawmakers passed these new requirements, particularly voter ID laws, they claimed it was to safeguard against voter fraud and protect election integrity. But occasionally we have seen politicians slip — and reveal a more strategic motive for these laws.

Wisconsin Congressman Admits Voter ID Will Help GOP Win in 2016

Responding to an interview question about Republican’s chance at the presidency in 2016, U.S. Rep. Glenn Grothmann (R-Wisc.) responded, “Hilary Clinton is about the weakest candidate the Democrats have ever out up, and now we have voter ID and I think voter ID is going to make a little bit of a difference as well.” Grothman helped passed the voter ID law in 2011 when he served as assistant majority leader in the State Senate. In 2012, he claimed voter ID would help Mitt Romney win Wisconsin, saying, “[I]nsofar as there are inappropriate things, people who vote inappropriately are more likely to vote Democrat.”

Legislative Leaders “Giddy” About Preventing Minorities and Students from Voting

At a May 2016 trial on Wisconsin’s voting restrictions, former Republican staffer Todd Allbaugh testified that some Wisconsin legislative leaders were “giddy” that the state’s strict photo ID law could keep minority and young voters from the polls. When the law was being considered in 2011, he said, State Sen. Mary Lazich (R) argued in favor of the bill: “She got up out of her chair and hit her fist or her finger on the table and said, ‘Hey, we’ve got to think about what this would mean for the neighborhoods around Milwaukee and the college campuses.’” State Sen. Dale Schultz, Allbaugh’s boss, said they should consider how it would hurt people’s ability to vote. Glenn Grothman, a state senate leader at the time, replied, “What I’m concerned about here is winning, and that’s what really matters here.”

Conservative Leader Argues Voter ID Skews Elections Toward Conservatives

Heritage Foundation president and former U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) said in an April 2016 radio interview, “[Voter ID laws are] something we’re working on all over the country, because in the states where they do have voter ID laws you’ve seen, actually, elections begin to change towards more conservative candidates.”

Georgia Politician Complains When Early Voting Location Opens in Black Neighborhood

Georgia State Sen. Fran Millar (R) vented on social media following the state’s opening of a new early voting location in 2014. “This location is dominated by African American shoppers and near several large African American mega churches such as New Birth Missionary Baptist,” he wrote in a Facebook post.

Ohio Republican Says Early Voting Shouldn’t Cater to African-Americans

In 2012, in response to a state-level battle over early voting hours, Doug Preisse, chairman of Franklin County, Ohio’s Republican Party, told The Columbus Dispatch, “I guess I really actually feel we shouldn’t contort the voting process to accommodate the urban — read African-American — voter turnout machine.”

Pennsylvania House Leader Asserts Voter ID Will Secure Victory for Romney

State Rep. Mike Turzai, an architect of the state’s then-existing strict voter ID law, said at a 2012 Republican State Committee meeting that “voter ID [would] allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania” — presumably by disenfranchising people who would vote against him.

Florida Lawmaker: Our Voting System is Too Easy, Because People in Africa Walk 200 Miles to Vote

In arguments over a 2011 Florida Senate bill that eliminated a provision allowing voters who moved to update their registration information on Election Day, State Sen. Mike Bennett (R) said the state made voting too easy and “people in Africa… literally walk two and three hundred miles so they can have the opportunity to do what we do [vote], and we want to make it more convenient?” PolitiFact found that most people in Africa walk a maximum of just over a mile to vote.