Monday, May 02, 2016


The New York Times has a story today about Texas's voter ID law and its effect on turnout in the state. The story begins this way:
In a state where everything is big, the 23rd Congressional District that hugs the border with Mexico is a monster: eight and a half hours by car across a stretch of land bigger than any state east of the Mississippi. In 2014, Representative Pete Gallego logged more than 70,000 miles there in his white Chevy Tahoe, campaigning for re-election to the House -- and lost by a bare 2,422 votes.

So in his bid this year to retake the seat, Mr. Gallego, a Democrat, has made a crucial adjustment to his strategy. “We’re asking people if they have a driver’s license,” he said. “We’re having those basic conversations about IDs at the front end, right at our first meeting with voters.”
Well, that's good, because, as it turns out, voters need to be reminded of what sorts of ID they need to vote -- ID they may not realize they actually have:
... a study of the Texas ID requirement by Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy released in August found that many more qualified voters, confused or intimidated by the new rules, have not tried to vote at all.

“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.”

... 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.”
So people who could have voted for Gallego didn't vote -- or, to put it another way, Gallego lost votes because people who would have voted for him didn't know they could vote, and the Gallego campaign didn't help voters figure that out.

The Republican backers of these laws know they're sowing confusion; as far as they're concerned, that's a feature, not a bug.

But what was wrong with the Gallego campaign that it didn't understand that this was a problem until after the 2014 loss? The Texas law, after all, went into effect in 2013. Its provisions were known to the campaign -- right?

I don't want to blame just the Gallego campaign. What was wrong with the Democratic Party? Why isn't word going out to every candidate in a voter ID state that it's important to educate voters about these laws? Why can't the party fight the laws and work hard to make sure voters aren't deterred from voting, especially if all that's preventing them from voting is a misunderstanding of the requirements?

It's political malpractice to lose seats because of these laws and then say, "Duh! We could have made an effort to educate voters!" Get it right the first time.


BroD said...

Exactly right. By all means we should work to repeal those obstacles to voting but the first critical step has to be to minimize their impact and maximize our vote.

AllieG said...

You are completely right. Completely. The best thing Obama could've done for the Democratic party, as opposed to the whole country, is move DNC headquarters to someplace like Kansas City, Denver or Phoenix instead of DC.

Tex said...

I was stoked to see that, when getting my community college ID, students were passing out register to vote forms. That's how I actually registered for 2016.
And I know it's missing the point - but being from Texas and driving across almost of all it, it is NOT 8.5 hours from end to end. That's bullshit, unless you're doing 100 almost all of the way. It's more like 15 to 18, IMHO.

Steve M. said...

That's just a reference to the 23rd Congressional District (map here).

Tex said...

Steve M

So it is...I retract my rage. I didn't read that carefully enough. Thanks for pointing it out!

Procopius said...

AllieG offers a great idea. I'd support that. I might even contribute $10 or so to help pay for the move. Even moving to Baltimore would help. There seems to be perverse motives among the top decision makers at the DNC. DWB and Chuck Schumer obviously hate Howard Dean so rooted out anyone who seemed to support his 50-State Strategy, and they've been losing ever since. They, and the DCCC and DSCC seem to have a penchant for withholding financial help from any candidate who is the least left of right-of-center. And of course there was the occasion of DWB sabotaging Democratic candidates to help her friends, who just happened to be Republicans. Obviously the people at the top in the DNC are making a good living from it, but they don't seem to be taking good care to preserve it.

maha said...

The people in charge of the Democratic Party have their heads up their collective ass. They are absolutely hopeless.