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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.